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The Situation Room

Interview with National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins; Ohio Governor Mike DeWine Tests Positive for Coronavirus; Key Model Forecasts Nearly 300,000 Deaths by December But Says Consistent Mask-Wearing Could Save 70,000 Lives; Growing Anger Over Reports of Ignored Warnings Before Explosion Left 137 Dead, Thousands Injured; NY Times: Trump's Bank Subpoenaed in New York Criminal Inquiry. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 06, 2020 - 18:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.

Tonight, a key model projects the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus will almost double by December 1, hitting nearly 300,000. But Americans do have the power to lower that number dramatically.

The experts behind the model say up to 70,000 American lives could be saved if people consistently wore masks when they leave their homes.

At this hour, the death rate is rising right now in 15 states, and the total number of COVID-19 deaths has climbed above 159,000, the national case count getting closer and closer to five million.

The risk of infection front and center, as President Trump is visiting Ohio tonight. That state's governor tested positive just hours ago, forcing him to self-quarantine, instead of greeting the president.

Let's go straight to our national correspondent, Athena Jones.

Athena, another alarming forecast of the life-and-death consequences of the coronavirus.


It's a sign of just how out of control the coronavirus is in America, the University of Washington's influential model now predicting nearly 300,000 deaths from COVID by December 1.

But they say consistent mask wearing starting today could save about 70,000 lives.



JONES (voice-over): A new warning for nine U.S. cities in California's Central Valley, where the rate of people testing positive for coronavirus is rising.

FAUCI: It's a clear indication that you are getting an uptick in cases, which inevitably, as we have seen in the Southern states, leads to surges, and then you get hospitalizations, and then you get deaths.

JONES: In a recording of a private phone call with state and local officials obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, the White House's Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, urging these areas to take measures to mitigate the spread, like avoiding crowds and using masks, arguing, data from previous hot spots show such measures work.

In fact, Dr. Anthony Fauci says these simple measures could bring COVID infections down to manageable levels by Election Day.

FAUCI: If we pay attention to the fundamental tenets of infection control and diminution of transmission, we could be way down in November.

JONES: But far too many people haven't gotten the message.

In Los Angeles, house parties like this one leading authorities to say they will start turning off power and water at places that host such functions, especially repeat offenders.

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA), LOS ANGELES: These large house parties have essentially become nightclubs. Some research has shown that 10 percent of people cause 80 percent of the spread.

JONES: Since the beginning of June, the infection rate in Los Angeles County tripled among 30-to-39-year-olds and nearly quadrupled among 18-to-29-year-olds.

Dr. Fauci pleading:

FAUCI: Don't be the weak link in the chain. Be a very strong part of the chain of ultimately getting us down.

JONES: In a stunning move in the midst of a pandemic, the town of Sturgis, South Dakota, preparing to host a motorcycle rally expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people. No masks required.

MAYOR MARK CARSTENSEN, STURGIS, SOUTH DAKOTA: We want to stress personal responsibility to our visitors and our residents as this gathering moves forward.

JONES: While new infections are steady or falling in all but three states, it isn't all good news, Mississippi reporting the highest COVID test positivity rate in the country, at nearly 26 percent, while Louisiana has the most cases per capita.

And with testing rates falling off, these positive trends likely don't show the whole picture.

Meanwhile, the number daily deaths on the rise in 15 states and stubbornly high nationwide, averaging more than 1,000 a day for the past seven days, the University of Washington now predicting nearly 300,000 U.S. deaths from COVID by December 1.

And, as more schools reopen for in-person classes, cases of coronavirus are popping up daily.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: We're trying to open up schools in the middle of a raging forest fire in many parts of the country. And we can't do that.

JONES: Outbreaks in Georgia and Mississippi proof in-person learning is risky in some places, which is why nearly seven million children will begin the year remotely.


JONES: And one more thing.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has now tested positive for coronavirus. He found out because he had been planning to greet the president on the tarmac in Cleveland. Here's more from the governor:


GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): About 6:00 this morning and drove to Cleveland. And the idea was, I was going to get tested, which I did. Everyone who sees the president is tested. So, I was tested. I went from there to the airport, and when I got to the airport, found out shortly thereafter that I had tested positive.


So that was a big -- a big surprise. I feel fine. Have a headache, but I get a lot of headaches throughout my life, so a headache is not anything that unusual.

So, besides that, I feel well.


JONES: Now, Governor DeWine doesn't sound particularly worried, but I should note that he did tell reporters that he has asthma. It's the kind of underlying condition that could cause concern -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We wish him only, only the best, a very speedy recovery.

Athena, thank you very much.

Also tonight, President Trump is in the key battleground state of Ohio. He's trying new ways to defend his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and trying to improve his flagging poll numbers. The Ohio governor's positive test coronavirus probably did not help.

Let's get some more from our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president suggested a new timetable for a coronavirus vaccine that's very ambitious and potentially very self-serving.


President Trump appears to be tying his reelection hopes to the release of a coronavirus vaccine, saying today he wants to have COVID- 19 shots ready by November 3, as in Election Day. The president is standing by his false statement, by the way, that children are immune or almost immune from the coronavirus, even though that's not true, as Mr. Trump has learned, after being fact-checked by both Twitter and Facebook.


ACOSTA (voice-over): President Trump appears to have a target date for the release of a coronavirus vaccine that just so happens to fall on November 3, Election Day.

QUESTION: Sooner than November 3?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, I think, in some cases, yes. It's possible before, but right around that time.

ACOSTA: Even though top health experts have cautioned there is no guarantee a vaccine will be ready by November, the president reiterated that goal to reporters, while insisting the timeline has nothing to do with his reelection bid.

TRUMP: I believe we will have the vaccine before the end of the year, certainly, but around that date, yes, I think so. But I'm not doing -- I'm doing it not for the election. I want it fast because I want to save a lot of lives.

ACOSTA: The president was also asked if he stands by his tone-deaf comment about the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S., that it is what it is.

TRUMP: Nobody can do what I have done in terms of all of the things that we're doing to combat this horrible disease that never should have been sent to us.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump is asking Americans to trust his leadership on the pandemic, despite his false claim that children are -- quote -- "almost immune from the virus."

QUESTION: What evidence have you seen about children being immune from this virus?

TRUMP: All you have to do is read the newspapers or read the -- read the medical reports.

ACOSTA: But that's not true.

And that remark to Fox News... TRUMP: If you look at children, children are almost -- and I would almost say definitely -- but almost immune from this disease.

ACOSTA: ... was later posted on social media by the Trump campaign, and both Twitter and Facebook blocked it.

Twitter removed the message, saying this tweet violated its rules. Top administration health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned, children can contract the virus and pass it along to vulnerable family members.

FAUCI: That's the message we have got to get to young people, because, obviously, they're not doing anything deliberately or maliciously. But what they're doing is, inadvertently, they're propagating the outbreak.

ACOSTA: The president almost came in close contact with the virus, as Ohio GOP Governor Mike DeWine tested positive for COVID-19 and had to suddenly sit out an event with Mr. Trump.

TRUMP: And we want to wish him the best. He will be fine. I guess he's going for a secondary test.

ACOSTA: The president is shifting to campaign mode, attacking mail-in voting, tweeting: "How can voters be sending in ballots starting in some cases one month before the first presidential debate? Move the first debate up."

Mr. Trump is attacking Joe Biden, accusing the former vice president of somehow hurting God.

TRUMP: Take away your guns, destroy your Second Amendment, no religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt God. He's against God.

ACOSTA: The Biden campaign jabbed back, noting the administration's violent clearing of Lafayette Park for the president's photo-op last June. Biden says he will use the debates to push back.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm so forward looking to have an opportunity to sit with the president or stand with the president in debates. There's going to be plenty of time.


ACOSTA: And the president told reporters he's running out of patience waiting for a new coronavirus relief bill, and claims he's instructed his aides to start drafting executive actions that will extend enhanced unemployment benefits for Americans who are struggling to find work.

Now, we should point out the president just delivered a speech in Ohio in what was billed as an official White House event, but the president repeatedly attacked Joe Biden in that speech, saying at one point that the former vice president often says the wrong thing.


That was after Mr. Trump mispronounced Thailand and said "Thigh-land."

We should also point out former Vice President Joe Biden does not hate God or does not have a campaign against religion. That is also false coming from the president earlier today.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

All right, thanks very much, Jim Acosta reporting for us.

Let's get some more on all of this from the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins.

Dr. Collins, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for everything you and your colleagues are doing. We are always grateful for NIH.

As you know, this new model from the IHME projects the country's death toll could reach nearly 300,000 by December 1. But if 95 percent of Americans were to wear masks when they leave their homes, it could save nearly 70,000 lives.

Is it possible, Dr. Collins, to convince that many Americans to do something that is so simple, simply put on a mask?

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I certainly hope so, Wolf, and thanks for letting me be on your program to talk about this and other things.

The reason to wear a mask is because you might be that super-spreader that could be infecting other people and not know it. We just heard about Governor DeWine, who tested positive, had no idea that he was a person infected with this.

And, unfortunately, that's the case about 30, 40 percent of the time. And so, if we're really going to figure out a way to stop the transmission of this virus, we all have to take that responsibility. Even if we're feeling fine, even if we're 23 years old and feel like we're immortal, we're the link in the chain that needs not to be the weak one, as Dr. Fauci said.

So, yes, when you go outside of your home, put on that cloth mask and think about all the people you're saving.

BLITZER: You will save a lot of lives.

The president also said today he's optimistic that we all could have a successful vaccine around Election Day, November 3, here in the United States. Do you think that's really, Dr. Collins, a realistic timeline?

COLLINS: Well, I'm a scientist and not a politician.

But I will tell you that all the sciences and the doctors -- and I'm one of those too -- are working round the clock to try to move these vaccines forward and find out if we have got something that's safe and effective.

And there's not just one. There's several of them, two of them already in phase three trials, others about to get into that same space, each of those requiring 30,000 volunteers to help us.

So, part of it is, are we going to be able to enroll all those folks in order to learn whether the vaccine actually works? I don't have a crystal ball. I think it would be amazing if, by the end of this year, we were able to say we have at least one of these that's safe and effective.

And I'm cautiously optimistic about that. But trying to put a finer prediction on the timetable right now, I don't think any of us have enough information yet to know how that's going to shake out. Sooner would be better. We got to get out there as fast as we can with this vaccine and try to stop this disease before it gets into more people's lives.

BLITZER: And the key is, the vaccine has got to be effective, but it's got to be safe to convince the American public and people all over the world to take it.

The president suggested today that a vaccine, in his words, wouldn't hurt his chances of winning, if it were to come out, let's say, around November 3, the presidential election.

Does it worry you to hear the president or others politicize this really sensitive and critically important lifesaving issue?

COLLINS: Well, certainly, it is a medical issue, and it's a safety issue, and it's an efficacy issue.

And it shouldn't really have a political spin attached to it. We want to be sure, when this comes through, that this is something that everybody can trust to be exactly what's needed.

I was happy to see an op-ed today in "The Washington Post" from the commissioner of the FDA, saying he absolutely was not going to judge any vaccine safe and effective until he had seen the data and it was absolutely convincing.

And that's the standard we need to follow. And I think, in this country, that's the standard we will follow. Sooner would be better, but it's not going to get tied to any other timetables, other than making sure we have got something that works and it's safe.

BLITZER: And that's so critical in convincing the public to go ahead and get the vaccine.

The president also said a lot of good things are happening right now with therapeutics. Therapeutics are so important. It's not a vaccine, but it will presumably help people avoid serious, serious complications and hopefully avoid death.

The last time we spoke, that wasn't too long ago, you said new therapeutics are being developed, in your words, in a remarkably rapid pace.

So, how close are we, Dr. Collins, to some successful treatments right now? Weeks away? Months away? COLLINS: Well, we need them, don't we, because people are suffering

and far too many are dying, now more than 1,000 every day. And the therapeutics are needed to try to help them.

We already have remdesivir, which we know is effective for people in the hospital and ICUs. We have dexamethasone, which seems to help the people who are the most ill, on a ventilator or in very serious trouble, needing oxygen.


But we need other therapeutics as well. Just this week, we announced the launch of trials for both inpatients and outpatients for something called monoclonal antibodies.

Now, that sounds like a lot of syllables, so what the heck is that? Well, we do know that your immune system is an amazing biotechnology factory, and it has the ability, when it encounters some invading virus, to make a protein that can basically go and knock it out.

So, I'm holding up here my favorite coronavirus pet rock here. And on the surface of this are these spike proteins. And that's what the immune system needs to recognize.

A monoclonal antibody is derived from somebody who has survived COVID- 19, this particular one we're starting with, one of the first patients in the U.S., in Washington state. And we purify that, this company Lilly does this, and then basically turns it into a biotechnology product.

And if you give to somebody where the virus is trying to get ahold, you can kind of think of those antibodies as chewing gum that sticks on top of those spikes and keeps the virus from being able to do its thing.

We're pretty excited about this, a trial just getting started this week for inpatients and outpatients. Of all the things that we have as far as the next therapeutic, this is one of the most promising. This only comes about because of remarkable partnership between the government, between academic scientists and industry, all catalyzed by the urgency here to try to find answers to COVID-19.

BLITZER: Yes, that would be great, if that happens, indeed.

Dr. Collins, we're going to continue these conversations down the road. Once again, we're grateful to you and everyone at NIH for what you're doing, because you're saving lives with that work. Appreciate it very much.

COLLINS: It's a privilege to be able to do those things. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead: Is President Trump building false hopes right now for a quick coronavirus vaccine just in time for Election Day? And we will tell you what we're learning about that devastating explosion in Beirut and why more than a dozen people were detained.

We will be right back.



BLITZER: We're back with breaking news on the coronavirus crisis.

A key model is now projecting that the U.S. death toll will surge to nearly 300,000 by December 1, unless Americans are much more diligent about wearing masks.

Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, along with Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Dr. Jha, we just heard Dr. Francis Collins of NIH explain what he sees as some promising new developments in terms of therapeutics. What stood out to you from that discussion?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes, Wolf, thank you for having me on. It was a great discussion. And Dr. Collins did a fabulous job of explaining the science behind these therapeutics.

What I'm wondering about and worried about is whether we're ramping up production of those antibodies. First of all, we don't know if they're going to work. But what we should be doing right now is mass-producing them anyway, so that, if they do work, we can deploy them very widely.

And what I'm worried about is that, if we find that they're effective, that we won't be able to get it out to as many people as possible. So it is hopeful, but we should be doing a lot of work on really mass- producing those things.

BLITZER: Yes, I hope they are.

Gloria, when I asked Dr. Collins about a vaccine, he said he was cautiously optimistic. Dr. Fauci always says he's cautiously optimistic that we will have one maybe by the end of the year, early next year.

But the president today suggested we could have a vaccine maybe by Election Day, November 3. Is the president's optimism based on science, or is it politically motivated?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it seems to me that suggesting that would be early November is political, because what's happening in early November, Wolf? The election.

And the scientists, including Dr. Collins and everybody else, are saying, hold on, we have to make sure this is safe. We have to make sure that this can get distributed properly. And while Dr. Collins was saying, look, we're working round the clock,

we're working as hard as we can, each trial needs 30,000 volunteers. And he was very clear: Look, I can't put a solid prediction on a timetable.

And I think the president sees this as kind of waving a wand and saying, OK, even if you complained about me, that we didn't -- we didn't get hold of the virus, even if you're one of those naysayers, if we come up with a vaccine, and we can so-call cure everyone or prevent the vaccine from spreading, then you will understand that I have fixed it, when, in fact, what Dr. Collins has said is that it is the scientists who are working around the clock to get this done.

And the president is not a scientist.

BLITZER: Yes, he's not a scientist.

Dr. Jha, the Ohio governor, Mike DeWine, was set to meet with the president today in Ohio -- the president is there right now -- until the governor tested positive for coronavirus this morning.

The governor says his only symptom was a headache. He was simply tested, of course, as a precaution. Everyone's tested before seeing the president.

The president is putting a lot of faith in the accuracy of these tests. How accurate are they? I'm always worried about false positives, false negatives.

JHA: Yes, so it's a great question, Wolf.

And, first of all, I think Governor DeWine, who has just been fabulous as a leader in this pandemic, sad to hear that he was infected, and obviously hope that he has a uneventful course.

These tests are not perfect. We know that. The test that the president's team is using does have some false negatives. That's why it's really important that we don't rely just on the test itself, which is why it bothers me and upsets me when I see people around the president not wearing a mask, because they may be still infected.


These tests are not perfect. They're putting themselves, they're putting the president at risk. And the president should be wearing a mask.

The tests are not reliable enough to make it so that people don't have to be wearing a mask.

BLITZER: That's absolutely right.

Gloria, how much of a risk do you think the president is taking, both for himself and his staff, by continuing to make these trips right in the midst of a pandemic, like he did today to Ohio?

BORGER: Well, we just saw. I mean, the test was this morning for the governor of Ohio, and he tested positive.

And what if he hadn't gotten his result back in those 15 minutes, and had gone and greeted the president, who was not wearing a mask? Someone who works for the vice president had COVID. You have the president's personal valet having COVID.

So it's not only when the president travels. It's also inside the White House. And if -- I know masks are now required, but you have the president on the tarmac there not wearing a mask.

And I think that there ought to be concern that the president of the United States -- again -- I'm not a doctor -- the doctor can speak about this better than I can. But there should be concerned that the president, the more he travels, the more he risks exposure.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right on that.

Dr. Jha, a new model, as you heard, from the University of Washington Medical School now predicts nearly 300,000 deaths here in the United States from the virus by December 1. But the model also shows the lifesaving ability of masks.

It estimates that some 70,000 people will not die if the American public, if 95 percent of the American public simply started wearing masks whenever they leave their homes. That's pretty remarkable, isn't it?

JHA: It is.

And it is a reminder of how effective masks are, if everybody or nearly everybody wears it. This is very much a test for our nation that, can we get beyond the misinformation, and focus on trying to do well by each other and do right by each other?

And if we all commit to that, we can make a substantial dent in this pandemic. And it's been frustrating that too many political people have politicized this.

BLITZER: Yes, it's not that hard. Just put on a mask. You will save lives.

Dr. Jha, as usual, thank you. Gloria, thanks to you as well.

And to our viewers, stay with CNN. To answer your questions on the pandemic and its toll on our mental health, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper, they will host a new global town hall later tonight, among their special guests, the Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps -- "Coronavirus: Facts and Fears," later tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Just ahead: As Florida reports thousands new coronavirus cases, the governor there now says it's time for students to play sports.


[18:30:00] BLITZER: We are following the breaking news here in The Situation Room, including this very dramatic new model from the University of Washington's Medical School. And there you see the numbers by December 1st if it continues along these lines and people aren't necessarily wearing masks, as they should, almost 300,000 Americans will die. Right now, it's almost 160,000, almost double the number of Americans by December 1st.

If 95 percent of the American were to wear masks when they went outside, when they left their homes, almost 70,000 American lives would be saved by December 1st.

Let's turn to the Midwest right now in a city where the coronavirus positivity rate is dramatically on the rise. We're joined by the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, Quinton Lucas. Mayor Lucas, I know you've got a lot going on. Thanks so much for joining us.

And as you certainly know, Dr. Deborah Birx of the coronavirus task force has identified your city as a new area of concern along with a bunch of other cities, including the Central Valley in California. How worried are you, Mayor, that Kansas City, Missouri, could become one of the next hot spots for this deadly virus?

MAYOR QUINTON LUCAS (D-MO), KANSAS CITY: Well, we certainly saw what happened in the southwest recently, and in Texas where they thought they had a handle on it, and then you saw a lot of extra measures having to be taken. We're very concerned. We issued a mask order fairly early, consistent with much of the rest of the country. But at the same time, we recognize that we have got to do real work to stop the spread.

So we have great concern. I talked to Dr. Birx a few weeks ago in connection with that issue and we will continue to do all we can to be sure we don't see the explosion of cases like we've seen in other parts of America.

BLITZER: I want to put the graphic showing the other cities she mentioned up on the screen, as well. Not just Kansas City, but you see Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City, Atlanta, Omaha, Portland and Central Valley in California. This is really disturbing.

She did suggest -- she laid out some strict recommendations, Mayor, for you and the other mayors for that matter as well, including closing bars, limiting restaurant capacity to 25 percent. I understand bars in Kansas City are currently still open and operating at 50 percent capacity.


Why not take her advice on this important issue?

LUCAS: So, we evaluated that today and we will probably have more to announce in connection with further capacity reductions, bar closing, et cetera. But one of our greatest challenges and throughout the country has been these backyard parties, where you have 50 people, in some cases 100, often unmasked, close to each other, often younger who have been part of spreading, particularly among asymptomatic carriers.

We're trying to find some way to make clear that people don't do that, right? We can't just close the bars and have them all go to a house party that's causing some of them same concerns. So that's another part of how we're trying to respond. Unfortunately, it's a lot harder to enforce mask rules, distancing rules, et cetera, at somebody's house rather than it is in bars.

BLITZER: Well, how do you -- one of the options available to you to deal with that, because, clearly, these huge house parties that we've been seeing are potentially super spreaders.

LUCAS: Yes. There are lots of super spreader incidents that are happening at those. Youth sports activities has been another area, traveling soccer teams, tournaments, et cetera, where we have seen concerns. So we have told people wear a mask, we don't want to shut down the economy, again, as we saw some months ago. But at the same time, we will make sure we don't get to a position where we are having a rapid increase in cases and a rapid increase in deaths.

We saw the experience in the northeast earlier this year. We are committed here in the Midwest to making sure we don't actually have those same concerns long-term. So I would expect us to see changes in restaurants, bars and also more messaging around closing down big events, of its size, limits, those sorts of things.

Another challenge we have though is that we are in some states where you don't have statewide mask rules, you don't have some of those concerns. So we are trying to work on that for the mayoral level when, really, we need our governors to act.

BLITZER: They certainly do.

Dr. Birx also recommending masks being worn at all times in public. And you've been adamant, Mayor, in urging your community to wear a mask when indoors. But what about when residence are outside, especially in areas where it's difficult to keep a six-foot distance from others? Where do you stand on that?

LUCAS: That, very clearly, is the next step that we do need to pass and enforce. Our mask requirements have worked. We've seen compliance increase dramatically over the last several weeks. But at the same time, yes, the outdoors, it is the summer, lots of people really take advantage of the fact that there is no mask requirement and outdoor events. And I think we are seeing spread particularly in those closed environments, the patios of bars, for example, are an area that we see concern.

So we are looking to expand our mask rule, our mask requirements. But, again, we need to make sure we are also not getting spread from outstate areas. I know over the northeast, they have a chance to quarantine or quarantine traveling to different states. Our challenge is, sometimes our travelers are coming from one county over. So those of us in larger cities, like Kansas City, or St. Louis, have the chance. We have all the great schools (ph) in the world. But if you have 500,000 people coming in each day for work or anything of that sort, you're going to have some ongoing problems.

BLITZER: Yes. That's why I think all of the experts have suggested you need some national guidelines right now, you need a national plan, mandatory mask-wearing when you are outside, especially when you leave your homes. That will save tens of tens of thousands of Americans lives until, God willing, there is a vaccine or some effective therapeutic down the road.

Mayor Quinton Lucas of Kansas City, Missouri, thanks so much for joining us.

LUCAS: Thank you.

BLITZER: And good luck.

Just ahead, Lebanese authorities are now searching for answers to the blast that displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. We're going live to Beirut.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We have much more on the late-breaking developments in the coronavirus pandemic, but I want to turn to the investigation into the deadly Beirut explosion that killed at least 137 people and wounded thousands more. As anger grows over reports, important warnings were missed.

Our Senior International Correspondent, Ben Wedemen, is in Beirut for us. So, first of all, Ben, what are you learning?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we understand this evening is that 16 officials from the Beirut port where this blast occurred on Tuesday have been arrested as this investigation gathers speed. In addition to that, the head of Lebanese Customs apparently informed legal authorities or either requested legal authorities six times that something be done with this 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate that were in Hangar 12 in the port. But all of those six queries or requests for action were never responded to.

Now, in addition to the arrest, we understand that several high officials have also had their bank accounts frozen as this investigation moves ahead, Wolf. Now, apart from the investigation, I did want to tell you about something we did today. We had the opportunity to go to the Maron Church in Beirut where you may have seen this dramatic video where a priest is doing a live stream mass and when all of a sudden the picture shakes and you hear a blast and you see things falling, tiles falling from the roof and you can hear shattering glass.

[18:45:04] Now, we went to that church today and spoke to one of the priests who was there. And he said it was a miracle that thanks to coronavirus, there were very few worshipers in the church at the time. So, there were only minor injuries, but I had an opportunity to see in the pews. They were covered with scratches and scrapes where the flying glass from that explosion hit, Wolf. As the priest told me, it was a miracle.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly was.

All right. Ben Wedeman, reporting for us. Ben, thank you very much.

And important information for viewers in the U.S. and around the world, how you can help the victims and there are hundreds of thousands of people who are homeless now in Beirut following the explosion. Go to You can impact your world.

Just ahead, "The New York Times" reports the Manhattan prosecutors are stepping up their investigation of President Trump's business practices, successfully subpoenaing some of his financial records.



BLITZER: We'll return to the latest on the coronavirus crisis, but we're also following another important story. "The New York Times" reporting, Manhattan prosecutors have successfully subpoenaed financial records for President Trump's primary bank lender as part of criminal investigation into business practices.

Let's discuss this and more with our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. He's also the author of a brand-new book just out entitled "Two Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump". There you see the book cover.

Let's talk about the book in a moment. But what do you think about this new information that we're getting about financial records involving the president of the United States?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, the amazing thing to remember is for all that we have heard about the Trump Organization and the president's finances, so far, it's all been taking Donald Trump's words for it. No one has ever seen the actual documents because it's a private company, and the New York City D.A., Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan D.A., will now see these materials, the tax returns, the Deutsche Bank records, all of the financial records. And if there is something improper there, if there is evidence of criminal behavior, they will able to pursue it. It's a big deal.

BLITZER: It certainly is.

And let's talk about your new book, I have a copy of it right here. Excellent book I must say. You spoke to a lot of people in the special counsel's office, on the president's legal team, even in the Trump administration. Jeffrey, what's the biggest revelation you discovered in all of your

reporting that we didn't necessarily know while we were all covering this investigation, the Mueller investigation?

TOOBIN: Let me tell you a couple of specifics and one big picture item. The Mueller team never subpoenaed the president's tax returns, never subpoenaed or obtained his financial records. You know, the FBI was so paranoid about the president that they actually hid at the FBI three copies of James Comey's memos outlining his conversations with the president because they were so paranoid that the president was going to shut down that investigation.

But, you know, the core of my book, Wolf, is really a story about -- it's a legal thriller. It's about how did the Mueller investigation work? How did they set up and conduct their investigation of the president? And how did they make what I think were two major blunders in the course of that work?

BLITZER: Well, what are they?

TOOBIN: Well, the two blunders were that Mueller's office never subpoenaed the president. You know, Rudy Giuliani, for all his weirdness and crazy statements, succeeded in stretching out the discussions over the subpoena, that he successfully basically kicked the can so far down the road that Mueller decided to settle for just the written questions and answers which were nearly useless.

And the other mistake Mueller made, I think, was his failure to state clearly that the president committed the crime of obstruction of justice. The Mueller report, which I think was more purchase than read, did not state clearly that the president repeatedly obstructed justice even worse than Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton ever did. And I think those two failures were unfortunately undermined a very honorable, thorough, and ethical investigation that Mueller conducted.

BLITZER: The book is getting great reviews. Thanks so much for writing it. Let me put the book cover on the screen. The book is entitled, "True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump." Jeffrey Toobin is the author.

Jeffrey, thank you so much.

TOOBIN: All right. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more news right after this.



BLITZER: Finally, tonight, we remember some of the wonderful men and women who died in the coronavirus pandemic.

Jerry Graul of Pennsylvania was 76 years old. His niece says his optimism and love for others was always on display, even as he struggled with the cerebral palsy throughout his life. He worked hard as a cashier for many years, loved the Phillies, and travelled the world with his older sister.

Rehana "Sally" Dinnoo of New York was 48. She came to the United States from Trinidad, worked in the financial industry, and dedicated much of her free time to helping orphan children and the elderly. Her aunt says she radiated love for friends and family and the less fortunate.

May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.