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Paula and Joey Reed are Interviewed about the Release of their Son; Deborah Birx is Interviewed about Her Book. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 27, 2022 - 08:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Former Marine Trevor Reed being released from prison in Russia. And we are joined now by his mother, Paula.

Paula, tell me how you are feeling.

PAULA REED, MOTHER OF TREVOR REED (via telephone): Oh, obviously we're ecstatic. Joey's here too.

KEILAR: Hi, Joey. Tell us how you're feeling.

JOEY REED, FATHER OF TREVOR REED (via telephone): Hard to explain.

P. REED: Answered prayers.

J. REED: Yes.

KEILAR: So many prayers. Your prayers. The people that you have reached out to and have been so aware here of Trevor's plight. Can you tell us, Paula, how you found out that he was going to be released?

P. REED: Yes, we found out. We got a call from the State Department.

KEILAR: And when was that? Can you tell me about that?

P. REED: I don't think we're allowed to tell you about that. But then we also got a call from the president.

J. REED: Yes, that --

KEILAR: Amazing.

J. REED: As soon as Trevor -- as soon as Trevor was released, we were actually on the phone with Trevor when the president called. So -- and he -- again, totally gracious and wonderful and kind and said he looked forward -- he looked forward to seeing us in the White House again.

So --

KEILAR: And tell us how Trevor's feeling. Tell us what he said about this. J. REED: He sounds kind of subdued. I think he's a little overwhelmed.

P. REED: Yes, he seemed to be in shock a little bit.

J. REED: They had moved him to another prison. They had moved him to a Moscow prison this week. We didn't know that. He went to the same prison that I think Paul Whelan was held in for a long time, Lafortavo (ph) Prison, and then they flew him from there to Turkey. And then Trevor quickly told us that they -- the American plane pulled up next to the Russian plane and they walked both prisoners across at the same time like you see in the movies.

KEILAR: In Turkey?

J. REED: In Turkey. And they're -- and then they were leaving Turkey and in the air when he called us and told us this. So, they're en route back to -- we believe to the United States, but they can't tell us for sure. So --

KEILAR: So do you expect, Joey, to see him soon?

P. REED: We're not sure. They haven't told us that. We're actually expecting the State Department at our house any minute. They're going to come and give us more logistics on how things are going to happen. But mostly we're just glad that, obviously, he's on his way home, but they also have a doctor on the plane, so he's getting checked out, and that was our main concern.

KEILAR: Well, Paula, and that's what we've been talking about for so long, right? He has had symptoms of tuberculosis. He was exposed to tuberculosis. He had been complaining about what he thought was cartilage or a bone or something sticking out of his abdomen.

P. REED: Right.

KEILAR: What can you tell us about how he's physically feeling?

P. REED: You know, Trevor always underplays how he's feeling, but he just said, I'm fine, I'm fine. But, you know, we'll see. At least he's getting checked out.

J. REED: Yes, we're praying that he doesn't have tuberculosis, but we're still concerned, you know, that he was coughing up blood for months. So, it could be leftovers from his Covid back in, you know, late -- or middle of last year. So --

KEILAR: So this is all pretty recent news, right? I mean, are you guys still in shock?

P. REED: Yes, a little bit.

J. REED: We're -- we're -- we believe that that meeting with the president is what made it happen and --

P. REED: What -- it was a tipping point for sure. J. REED: Which is what we had said all along, if we could just speak

to the president, we just -- he's that kind of person. And -- and a -- and, as always, we also -- we want to remember Paul Whelan. And we need to get him out of there. And he's innocent, along with, you know, dozens of Americans all over the world that we need to get out of those places too. And we just want the president to keep going what he started here and with the couple of prisoners in Venezuela. We need to get all of our Americans home.

KEILAR: Well, look, Paula and Joey, it's amazing that you're trying to turn the focus now on other people who are so in need.

I do want to ask you, Paula, when you see him in person finally, you know, what are you going to do? What do you want to say?

P. REED: Well, I'm going to try not to cry because he doesn't want me to cry. But obviously I'm going to cry a little bit and give him a big hug and just, you know, just give him hugs and it will be the four of us together again in few years, so it's going to be great.


KEILAR: I can't imagine what it has been like for you not to be able to touch him, to give him a hug.

P. REED: Yes.

KEILAR: Joey, the same for you as well. I wonder, you know, what do you want -- what do you want to say to him?

J. REED: Well, I want to hug him and not let him go. And, you know, I was in Russia for 14 months and I probably went to at least 20 different trial hearings where he's standing in a cage, and they -- they won't let me touch him, shake his hand or anything. So, obviously, it will be -- it will be good to finally give my son a hug. And a kiss.

KEILAR: I can't blame you for not wanting to let him go. And he's going to put up with that kiss. And I think he's going to put up with you crying, Paula, as well.

P. REED: Yes, he will.

KEILAR: Paula, what do you want to say to the -- I know you spoke to the president. What did you tell him? What do you want to say now that you maybe had a moment to collect your thoughts?

P. REED: Well, we told the president, obviously, that we are very grateful for his quick action and we were so thankful. And he said, I understand that you must be feeling excited or whatever. And then he said, I wanted to call you, but I didn't want to, you know, jinx it during the middle of the night. So, I waited until now. And he said, I'm happy for you, congratulations. And then we said -- Joey told him that when we see him again -- well, he said he wanted to have us at the White House. And then Joey said, well, when we see you again, we're probably going to want to give you a big hug. And he said, I'm going to want to give you all one back.

KEILAR: So this was --

P. REED: And then he found out that we were -- we were on the other line with Trevor and he said, oh, well, if you're talking to Trevor, you don't want to talk to me, so I'll let you go. He was so -- he was so kind.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean it's maybe not even a tough call, even though you're talking to the president on one line.

Joey, look, I know you -- there's a long road ahead. This is a -- this is an incredibly happy ending for what you had worried might happen. But he's got a long road ahead after being in captivity for so long.

What do you imagine is the first thing that he's going to want to do when he gets home? And, you know, what are you looking forward to here in the weeks to come?

J. REED: Well, just -- just the peace of mind knowing that he's -- that he's free and he's back in America. And then, you know, to get -- to make sure that he's, you know, he's going to have to reacclimatize himself to being in a free country and having, you know, regular things around him, and people. I mean, just, you know, driving in a car, where you can see out the windows, and just walking outside is going to be, you know, something that he hasn't done in years.

So, anyway, so we've just got to give him -- get his mind right and then get him back on the course that he had set before this all happened.

KEILAR: It's probably --

P. REED: Because we know it's going to take some time. So we're just going to want, you know, to have that time with him and let him go through the process that he needs to do so that he can, you know, reintegrate into life.

J. REED: We know he's probably going to want to go back to school immediately. So we're hoping he doesn't want to get in the summer. We hope that he maybe will enroll for the fall. So --

KEILAR: That maybe you can --

J. REED: And get back on track.

KEILAR: Convince him to wait just for a moment, to sit still. You know, it's hard to know in a situation like this what the right move is, right? He's probably -- and you are probably going to have to figure that out.

P. REED: Yes.

J. REED: Yes, we've done a lot of thinking about it. And I'm sure that -- and we know he has too. And so it's just a matter of getting him settled in and then -- and getting -- getting back to normal. KEILAR: You know, Paula, I know we've talked a lot about this, whether

this war in Ukraine that Russia is waging, whether that was going to, you know, on one hand elevate Trevor's case, but on the other hand maybe endanger the possibility that he would able to get out of Russia.

What do you -- what do you think about what it says that this deal was able to be brokered at a time where Russian and American relations have never, you know, been worse here in recent history?

P. REED: I think it's a good sign. But, also, I think it's just a testament to what the State Department has told us all along, that even though the war and everything that's going on with Ukraine, that the talks for negotiations were on a different channel. And I'll -- you know, and I was always kind of skeptical of that. But, obviously, they were correct and it happened.

So, kudos for that. And I hope that it's a sign of good things to come for the relationships between Russia and America and all the other countries. I hope that it's a good sign.

KEILAR: Paula and Joey, we do wish you the best. We wish Trevor the best. This news is really -- I mean it is just unbelievable, as you say, right now, Trevor is on his way back to you. Congratulations. You thanked so many people. I will say, we read your statement out loud as you thanked so many people. But you also have yourselves to thank. It was incredible to watch the both of you and the dedication every day, every minute that you were giving to your son and how much hope that must have given him to hang on.

P. REED: Yes, thank you.

J. REED: Thank you, Brianna, and, John.


We would have included all of the wonderful reporters that we've met in the last three years that have been such a big help, like you guys, but, again, it would have -- we'd have had fill up a whole page with just you guys' names. But we're so thankful to both of you and to CNN for your help.

P. REED: And, John, we're glad you're feeling better.

J. REED: Yes.

KEILAR: He's saying -- he's saying thank you. I don't know, I can't actually hear John speaking. I hope our viewers can. But he says thank you very much and he is feeling better.

And thank you, guys, for talking to us. It's amazing to hear your voices at this moment. We appreciate it.

P. REED: Thank you.

J. REED: OK. Talk to you soon. Thank you. P. REED: Bye-bye.

KEILAR: All right, we're going to have -- we're going to have some more on this breaking news right after this.


KEILAR: We are getting a new behind the scenes look at the response to coronavirus as the pandemic began in 2020 from one of the key players who was involved at the time.

Joining us now is the author of the new book "Silent Invasion: The Untold Story of the Trump Administration, Covid-19 and Preventing the Next Pandemic Before It's Too Late," Dr. Deborah Birx. She as the White House coronavirus response coordinator under former President Trump. And that book is out now.

Dr. Birx, thank you so much for being with us.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, AUTHOR, "SILENT INVASION": Good morning. Glad to be with you, Brianna.


KEILAR: So, look, this book is fascinating. You go through in incredible detail what happened. And, obviously, your time there at the White House heading up this task force was controversial. So, I want to ask you a couple of questions because you have said that the majority of the deaths after the first surge, so after that first 100,000 deaths, that you felt that it could have been, quote, mitigated or reduced substantially with better leadership. And I wonder, you know, as you're writing about this and you're writing about your own leadership, does that include with better leadership from you?

BIRX: That includes all of us. It includes all of us today. And I didn't (ph) say 50 percent. I said somewhere around 30 percent, I thought, could have been improved in our response to really save American lives. Excuse me. You can't have this many loss of lives over the last two years and not have a deep dive into what worked and what didn't work. And that's really why I wrote the book, because I wanted every American to be able to see that there were things that were actually working that may not have been visible and there were things that truly didn't work. And we need to learn those lessons and apply them now because we're going to continue to have surges of this virus.

KEILAR: What -- and you talk about it in your book, but what do you think as, you know, you want Americans to read about your experience, what do you want them to know about how you think your leadership could have been better?

BIRX: I think, first, to be honest, I probably should have come to the White House earlier. I had on the ground experience of how to work with communities, how to use data in an integrated way to really improve our responses. And I think we started out behind. I think the trips to the field were critical. I mean you have people

in the Ukraine, you see how important that is. You have to get on the ground. You have to understand the experience of everyday Americans, what they need, and you have to understand everybody's needs, not just from a viewpoint of Washington or Atlanta. So, I think I should have gotten out to the field earlier.

I think what wasn't covered often is how much I was working with the governors and local mayors to really together learn from each other and improve the responses across America. And that's why I wrote over 35 weekly governors reports to every single state across the country and got to 44 states because I really believe that there are solutions out there. And I found them. And I wanted every other governor to see them.

KEILAR: You write, quote, at no time did anyone tell us to stop this acceleration in testing. And I want to ask you about this because this is what we were hearing from President Trump at the time.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (May 7, 2020): I've always said testing is somewhat overrated.

TRUMP (June 20, 2020): When you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases. So, I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.

REPORTER (June 23, 2020): Were you just kidding or do you have a plan to slow down testing?

TRUMP (June 23, 2020): I don't kid. We test. We're going to have more cases. By having more cases, it sounds bad. But actually what it is, is, we're finding people, many of those people aren't sick or very little.

TRUMP (July 9, 2020): We test so many people and we have more cases. Everybody says, we have so many cases. That's because we test so many people.

TRUMP (July 19, 2020): If we tested half as much, those numbers would be down.


KEILAR: I mean he was very clear publicly he wanted it to be lower. You're saying he didn't tell you that he wanted less testing. He told everyone he wanted less testing.

BIRX: What I said, at the same time he's saying these things to every American, and I just want to applaud the vice president for getting tested because that is the way you find -- remember when she said, I had no symptoms. That's how most of the virus is transmitted to others, without symptoms. And the only way to find this virus and the only way to find many viruses is through definitive laboratory testing. And I just want to thank the private sector for working hard to get me tests.

And that's what I was talking about. The president would be saying these things and in the task force we would be spending billions working with our incredible private sector to expand both PCR testing, antigen testing and serology. And so that was the -- that was what was difficult in this White House because things were being said and we were doing the opposite and I'm just really grateful to everybody on the task force who were willing to work together to do the opposite.

KEILAR: Things were being said.

BIRX: Yes.

KEILAR: The president, the man, the guy, he was saying them.

BIRX: Yes.

KEILAR: So you talk about what you're doing privately, but that comes up completely in the face against what he is saying very publicly and what you are not necessarily saying publicly to counter what he was doing at the time.

BIRX: Well, you know that I had no access to national media after the event of April 23rd. And so I had to find another way to make sure my voice was heard, and to make sure the actions occurred.

And those two things did happen, I went out and I've talked to hundreds of local media to make sure that they knew -- and everybody across this country knew -- how important testing was, and ensured that the investment kept going and ensured that the people who needed the test most, the tribal nations, our HBCUs, I -- together with Brett Giroir, we got tests to those locations.


Yes, Brianna, you're correct. I say that throughout the book, communication in a pandemic is the core and critical piece. And it is absolutely clear that the president's message and his -- the -- from the very beginning of underplaying this pandemic, and this issue about testing and cases and not seeing that link between the critical relationship of testing to cases to hospitalization and preventing our seniors from getting infected was absolutely wrong and I made that very clear in the book.

But I also wanted Americans to know that there were great people in the federal government working every day to make sure that they had what they needed relevant to the tools to combat this pandemic.

KEILAR: But they were being completely undercut by President Trump at the time. You said you didn't have access to national media after late April. Yes, you did. You had access to national media if you chose to speak to them. But you chose not to.

BIRX: Well, Brianna, I knew from the experience I had seen in that White House that if I had done that independently, outside of the White House communications, that I would no longer be in that White House. And there was only one person -- I want to be very clear, there was only one person working on the coronavirus inside the White House where it was critical to make sure that things moved forward. And I understand that I had to find another way to make sure my voice was heard. And this is just the reality. When I work on pandemics around the globe, it is -- you have to make these choices every day about how you're going to serve communities the best and in the -- in my judgment, that was the best way to serve Americans at that time.

KEILAR: I want to listen to something. You talk about this in the book a bit, something that you said about President Trump on March 27th of 2020.


BIRX (March 27, 2020): He's been so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data. And I think his -- his ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his long history in business has really been a real benefit during these discussions about medical issues.


KEILAR: How do you feel when you see yourself back then, when you watch yourself saying that?

BIRX: It was the absolute truth. And what's in the book is the truth. I don't have two different ways of saying things.

KEILAR: OK, so -- OK, so then explain this to me. At what point -- how had his ability to analyze and integrate data from his long history in business, as you put it, been a real benefit?

BIRX: So, we would have not gotten the European travel ban, the 15 days to slow the spread, the 30 days to slow the spread, and the reopening guidelines if I wasn't able to convince him by the data of that day in charts and graphs.

KEILAR: I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about him, because you're talking about him and his ability to analyze and integrate data from his long history in business. A real benefit, you called it.

BIRX: Yes.

KEILAR: How was -- how was that a fact, especially considering by your own admission that travel ban came too late?

BIRX: Well, remember, I didn't get into the White House until March 2nd. By March 8th or 9th, we had the travel ban. By March 16th, we had the 15-days to slow the spread.

KEILAR: But, again, we're talking about him. You were on CBN --

BIRX: Yes.

KEILAR: Saying very fawningly about his ability to analyze and integrate data from his long history in business, that it was a real benefit. How was that a real benefit? Him. Not you, him?

BIRX: He understood -- yes, because I needed that policy shift. I needed a shift from, this is like flu and it's low risk, to, this is serious, and because it's so serious we're going to do the 15 days to slow the spread, the 30 days to slow the spread, and the reopening criteria. That was critical to me. Unless he understood that data and graphs, I was not going to get him to those decision-making.

Yes, in that moment, and in that March into early April, he was looking at the data, we were having clear discussions, and I -- as I say in the book, that all changed.

But in that moment, and I stand by the fact that it was those graphs that convinced him to move from a low risk to taking this virus seriously that I believe kept that virus from spreading to the 25 or 30 major metros in this United States, we kept it contained to about 12 or 13 metros.

KEILAR: I want to listen to something that you said after the fact, in January of last year, about the kind of exposure that you had to President Trump.


Let's listen to that.


BIRX (January 25, 2021): I wrote a daily report, over 310 of them, that went to senior leaders. We created --

MARGARET BRENNAN, CBS NEWS: Did President Trump read them?

BIRX: I don't know. I don't know. I sent them up through to the vice president. I had very little exposure --

BRENNAN: But you did brief President Trump?

BIRX: I had very little exposure to President Trump.


KEILAR: Can you just square that with what you just told me.

BIRX: So, I make it very clear in the book, there was an inflexion point in early April. Throughout early March I did have access. There were briefings. We got to show the information and our projections to the president. And it resulted in those policy changes.

After the first week of April, I never had individual briefings on the epidemic with the president except for one of the vaccine briefings, which I took the opportunity to talk about this pandemic. And that was in July.

There were meetings with governors, but they were not the type of meetings that you need with a president to convince them with the data to understand where we are in America. And so that's when I shifted tactics to working directly with the states. And we made great progress with the states.

KEILAR: And you started early March. So you're talking about one month when you had exposure to him.

BIRX: Yes.

KEILAR: After that, you stayed on and you didn't leave, even though you didn't have that exposure to him.

BIRX: Right. Because we were making progress across the United States, both developing the tools we needed for the response and the policies that we needed at the state level.

KEILAR: Dr. Birx, I do appreciate you joining us. Your book is out right now. And we thank you for talking with us about it.

BIRX: Thank you very much, Brianna. And thank you for the great segment on Trevor Reed.

KEILAR: Oh, yes, very exciting news. Very exciting news there.

Dr. Birx, thank you so much.

We do have some more on our breaking news. As she jut mentioned there, American Trevor Reed released from custody in Russia in a prisoner swap. What does this mean for talks between the west and Russia during this war?

And --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Four, three, two, one, zero. Ignition. And liftoff.


BERMAN: NASA astronauts heading to the Space Station, making history in the process.


BERMAN: It's unclear when the results -- what the results mean and for protection against future infections.

KEILAR: And this morning, the funeral service for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is going to be held at the Washington National Cathedral. President Biden will be there delivering the eulogy.

A court in military-ruled Myanmar sentencing the country's former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to five years in prison for corruption. The Nobel laureate led Myanmar for five years before being deposed in a military coup last year. KEILAR: North Carolina Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn has

done it again. The 26-year-old cited for trying to bring a loaded handgun through an airport checkpoint in Charlotte on Tuesday. It's the second time in just over a year that airport security has stopped Cawthorn with a gun.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Five, four, three, two, one, zero. Ignition. And liftoff.


BERMAN: This morning, four NASA astronauts on their way to spend five months at the International Space Station. The historic mission includes astronaut Jessica Watkins, who will become the first black woman to live and work in space for an extended period. This mission's crew is also one of the first equally comprised of men and women.

KEILAR: Fascinating to see there, that launch.

And those are "5 Things to Know for Your New Day." You can have more on these stories all day on CNN and


And don't forget to download the "5 Things" podcast every morning. Just go to

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