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U.K. Declining Number of Coronavirus Cases; Moscow Entering Strict Quarantine; India's Poor Population Hit Hardest by Coronavirus; Trump Extends Social Distancing; Unused Pandemic Playbook in the White House; Beth Cameron, Former Senior Director for Global Health Security, White House National Security Council, is Interviewed About Pandemic Playbook; Deploying U.S. Military for Coronavirus Pandemic; Stanley McChrystal, Former Commander, International Security Assistance Forces Afghanistan, is Interviewed About the Coronavirus; Trump's Huge Rating and Poll; Interview With U.C. Berkeley's Dr. Jennifer Doudna; Interview With David Urban. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 30, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- and we could reduce mortality. These are all things that we have under our control. And why I think that what Cuomo is
saying is very, very important, stay home. Do the things that we can do.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Amanpour." Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: President Trump reverses himself to extend social distancing rules amid some cautious positive signs in Europe. I ask the experts who
wrote the pandemic playbook for the White House why was it left on the shelf.
Then, leadership in times of crisis. How four-star general, Stanley McChrystal, converts his battlefield experience into fighting the
Plus, Trump's high rated White House briefings despite uneven messaging. I'm joined by Trump confidant and 2020 campaign adviser, David Urban.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER DOUDNA, CO-INVENTOR, CRISPR: We should find a way to use our resources and our knowledge to test for the virus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The co-discoverer of gene editing tool, CRISPR, tells us our Walter Isaacson how her tech could target COVID-19.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London, where we are still working from home and broadcasting to you from here as
coronavirus continues to surge in the West.
But here in the U.K., officials report two consecutive days of declining numbers of cases. It's much too soon to talk about a trend but it's
welcomed news nonetheless after the first week of strict lockdown measures here. And the U.K. deputy chief medical officer is saying it could take six
months for life to return to normal.
The Russian capital, Moscow, is now entering a strict quarantine. Meantime, India's been under lockdown for a week and it's hitting the poorest
hardest. This video shows some of the poorest self-isolating in trees to try to protect their families.
In the United States, as expected President Trump has had to reverse himself after calling for things to get back to normal by Easter.
Conditions have forced him to extend social distancing until the end of April. And he's also saying that if only 100,000 die from coronavirus, that
would be a success. While the U.K. says, it will have done well to keep deaths under 20,000.
Well, my next guest might have a different opinion. Beth Cameron was the senior director for Global Health Security and Biodefense on the White
House National Security Council, and she is also the author of a now reportedly unused pandemic playbook, which was drawn up for the White House
for precisely the kind of crisis that we're facing now. And she is joining me from Washington.
Beth Cameron, welcome to the program.
Tell me about the pandemic playbook that you authored and why and when was it written?
BETH CAMERON, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: So, the pandemic playbook was written by
a group of experts, not just me, but I did oversee its creation under the direction of our National Security adviser and Homeland Security adviser.
The reason that we created it was coming out of the Ebola epidemic in 2014, we realized as a government that we really needed a set of decision making
capabilities within the White House that would allow us to really quickly understand if an outbreak or an epidemic was becoming something more what
had the potential to become a global crisis, and that was for a number of reasons.
Ebola in West Africa wasn't usual. It usually happens in Central Africa. And the communities in West Africa weren't really used to dealing with the
Ebola. And so, factoring that in as well as just some characteristics of the disease itself, cultural differences in the communities that were most
affected by Ebola, we realized that we would have been able to see much sooner that this could have become a crisis that it ultimately became.
But most importantly, coming out of the Ebola epidemic, we knew that we and the world were not prepared for something worse than Ebola, a respiratory
disease agent with human to human transmission like the coronavirus, like COVID-19 that we're seeing now. So, we put in place a series of questions
to ask ourselves so that we could make better decisions.
AMANPOUR: So, what were the questions? How -- and do you think that playbook would have been useful had it been used in the early days of this
epidemic? Would it have been useful for the United States?
CAMERON: Definitely. It would have been useful for the United States. The goal was really to ask questions at all levels of government. So, starting
with White House decision makers, we were asking ourselves questions like, should we be looking at our personal protective equipment at varying stages
during an epidemic or a pandemic? Does this call into question that we should be talking more with FEMA if we have a stronger need to respond in
the United States or working more carefully with our global partners?
So, basically, it's now, I think, scanned in online. It was a public -- it was a document that is unclassified but originally not for public
distribution. And it outlines the questions that you would ask up the chain to senior leaders in the White House, but more importantly, the questions
that you would ask departments and agencies. For example, do we have testing capability? For example, do we have enough supplies, ventilators
And so, it's really a rubric not to tell exactly what decision to make but to allow everyone to ask the right questions constantly and consistently so
that better decisions are made as quickly as possible, recognizing that time is really the one commodity that we don't have during a pandemic.
AMANPOUR: So, to your -- to the best of your knowledge, it wasn't used, right? I mean, these are the very questions that are facing the United
States and many countries right now, testing, PPE and all the other emergency, ventilators and all the things that people need to, you know,
respond to this crisis, public health measures. Why was it not used to the best of your knowledge?
CAMERON: So, two quick things. One, the reason that it wasn't used, I don't really know the reason that it wasn't used. It was reported that it
hasn't been used. And I think that it certainly would have been useful had it been used.
But I think that it would have been most useful in the beginning phases of this crisis. So, in early to mid to late January as the crisis was turning
into a public health emergency of international concern because that's the point at which decision makers are really unclear about how to handle
something, where time is of the essence and there might be a decision that takes two or three days where if it could be made more quickly or if a
backup plan could be put in place, it could really save time.
Now, at this point in the crisis, I think we really are where we are, which is that we have a massive pandemic around the world and certainly, in our
own country where we don't know who has the disease because we don't have massive testing capabilities in place but where we really need that
capability as quickly as possible, in addition to really getting the supply chain in order so that we have personal protective equipment, workers and
hospital supplies ready to deal with what we have. So, definitely would have been useful then. I think now, you know, we are where we are
AMANPOUR: But it's important because it's about lives and lives matter. And I just want to ask you because some, and we have a quote of a former
national security official, and this was reported by Politico who broke the story of this pandemic playbook that apparently remained on the shelf. And
the official in the Trump administration said in -- you know, a week ago, we're aware of the document. Although, it's quite dated and it's been
superseded by strategic and operational biodefense policies published since. The plan we are executing now is a better fit, more detailed and
applies the relevant lessons learned from the playbook in the most recent Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo to COVID-19.
What is your reaction to that? Was your playbook dated?
CAMERON: I don't think it was dated. It is definitely true that this administration did put out a national biodefense strategy in 2018, and that
strategy has really geared towards telling departments and agencies what kinds of gaps they should be looking at over the long-term.
The playbook was a fundamentally -- was for a fundamentally different purpose. The playbook was specifically for leaders in the White House to
guide them towards the types of questions they should be asking the Department Of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the
Department of Homeland Security, in order to get information that the White House would need and also, to be able to lead at moments when it might be
less clear to departments and agencies what kinds of decisions to make.
And so, the two are not mutually exclusive in any way. But the playbook was for a fundamentally different purpose, it was for White House decision
makers not for departments and agencies. Although, they were heavily consulted in its development.
AMANPOUR: President Trump is saying that, you know, he's now going to listen to the experts. He said that he's been listening to the experts but
in the wake of having to extend the social distancing time period from what he hoped would be Easter Sunday to the end of April, at the very least,
he's saying he's going to listen to the experts before making another call.
And of course, the big expert is Dr. Anthony Fauci, and he has said that if one could keep in the United States deaths to 100,000 or 200,000 that --
you know, that might be -- I mean, it's horrible to say, but that might be a success. I just want to play what Anthony Fauci said to CNN today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think, you know, if you look at seasonal flu, we had a bad
season in 2017-'18. We lost over 60,000 people just in the seasonal flu. This is clearly worse than that. So, I would not be surprised, I don't want
to see it, I'd like to avoid it, but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw 100,000 deaths.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Again, they seem like enormous numbers and I'm not sure whether you can address numbers. But what do those figures say to you? Are you --
do they kind of match with the war gaming or the playbook that you co- authored?
CAMERON: So, I'm not prepared to comment on exactly how many deaths we might see in America or around the world, but those numbers do not surprise
me at all based on the modelers and other scientific experts that I'm consulting with now on a daily basis.
In fact, I think those numbers are projections that would require social distancing to remain in place for a period of time, and I think it was very
good that President Trump extended the social distancing guidance in the United States past Easter.
I think, quite frankly, we are in a position where we don't know how many deaths will come from this disease or how many deaths will come from a lack
of preparedness in our hospital system which is overwhelmed in many states right now handling COVID-19 and isn't, therefore, as available to handle
all of the other health crises that hospitals usually handle.
So, unfortunately, I do think that that number is realistic. It might even be an underestimate unless we're able to keep a strong social distancing
measures in place and expand them, quite frankly, around the country.
AMANPOUR: Beth Cameron, I want to read, also, just a quick tweet from Brett McGurk. He's been a frequent guest on this program and he, obviously,
has worked for several administrations, Republican and Democrat. And he was last the sort of task force point man on fighting ISIS. In any event, he
has pointed out that President Trump continues to say on "Fox and Friends" and "Fox News" that no one could have predicted this pandemic. He says, you
know, this is flatly untrue and he says, you know, if Trump says coronavirus came out of nowhere, last year the DNI warned that we were
vulnerable to a pandemic that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international
What is it -- how do you feel in your gut when you hear world leaders, whether it's the president of the United States or others, saying, well, we
had no idea, this could have hit anybody?
CAMERON: Christiane, it is one of the most frustrating things about this pandemic for so many of us that work on this issue. Look, this was not
explicitly anticipated that this exact event would happen nor that it would be affecting developed countries in quite the way that it is in Europe and
the United States. But the fact that we're facing a pandemic is something that absolutely everyone who works in this field was aware would happen.
We also, you know, given the globally interconnected nature of our world, given increasing likelihood that there could be accidents or even
deliberate use of a biological weapon by a terrorist group or a state, many of us have been preparing for this moment and warning that it could occur.
And so, I think, quite frankly, it is surprising to hear leaders say they didn't anticipate a pandemic.
I do think, however, that it is very clear that the world leaders in general not just in the United States were not adequately preparing both
financially or from a health systems perspective for the reality of this kind of event. And I think one of the things I haven't seen enough
reporting about in the United States in particular is the impact of this global crisis for months and years to come around the world, especially in
developing countries, low resource, low income countries where we're going to see major, major challenges dealing with this and where we have really a
global supply chain that is really struggling to provide personal protective equipment in New York City.
Can you imagine what that supply chain is dealing with in places around the world, in Sub-Saharan Africa, in South Asia, in Southeast Asia? And so, I'm
really concerned about how we're going to get world leaders focused on preparedness for the future even while handling this crisis right now.
AMANPOUR: Exactly. And of course, we're going to dig into that because the next wave may be in the Southern Hemisphere and in the more developing
countries, and their public health systems are not -- clearly, not as good as in the United States.
But, you know, you said this particular pandemic wasn't predicted, but in 2019, Johns Hopkins public health school did actually show an assessment of
about 195 countries around, the U.S. had good marks. It had about 80 out of 100. But many countries were just about 40 out of 100. And where the U.S.
fell down, it was successful in detecting but it fell down in coping, in addressing and in its health system.
So, this really does leave a huge number of questions for the future because if another one comes it might be even worse than this.
CAMERON: Absolutely true. And actually, our organization, the Nuclear Threat Initiative is co-investigator on that index. So, that's a project of
my team and I, with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
And absolutely you're right, one of the things we really struggled with in releasing that index is we chose purposefully not to give any color, a
green mark on the map. And so, even though the U.S. got high marks, it's still yellow, it's not green. And we looked at the scores for the United
States and we felt that a low 80 mark was a flat B and it wasn't good enough.
Frankly speaking, looking at our response, we've underperformed relative to what I think we are capable of. But even looking deeper into the index and
into the scores, there were some interesting things that we found about public confidence and government about the access to health care and our
health system that I think are really being played out in real-time.
In addition to that, you know, we made a few recommendations in that index including that there should be a global health security challenge fund, an
initiative for helping countries to get prepared. Coming out of Ebola, lots of countries assessed themselves and got assessed by the World Health
Organization to show that they weren't prepared and to identify really specific gaps, but what hasn't happened is there haven't been financial
incentives to actually fill those gaps. So, we have a lot of work to do.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And you wrote the book on all of this. Beth Cameron, thank you so much for joining us. Really important to ask these questions so that
the next time one is not so unprepared.
So extraordinary times do require an extraordinary response, of course. And some are highlighting the logistical might of the United States military to
deployed right now. My next guest is retired four-star general, Stanley McChrystal. He led special operations in Iraq after 9/11 which led to the
killing of the notorious al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. And he led U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
His consultancy firm has been recruited by Boston, the City of Boston, to review that city's coronavirus plans and he's also author of book "Leaders:
Myth and Reality." He is joining me from Alexandria, Virginia.
Stanley McChrystal, welcome to the program.
And let me just start by asking you what you know best, and that is the military capacity of the United States which is usually, obviously,
deployed abroad but there are provisions to deploy it in-country when there are crises like this. What is your response to that? Should it be? Has it
STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, FORMER COMMANDER, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE FORCES AFGHANISTAN: First, Christiane, thanks for having me on.
And the answer is the Department of Defense, all of the service members and civilians involved and their families are part of the nation. I think that
in their hearts and souls, they want to be a part of defending the nation against even this kind of a threat, a pandemic as opposed to a traditional
enemy. So, my answer to you is, we need to maintain the capability to defend against traditional threats that might attack but also, we need to
turn every bit of Department of Defense we can against this particular threat to help the American people.
AMANPOUR: So, we just heard from Beth Cameron. I mean, and she says, you know, that there was a playbook but one has lost critical months and weeks.
What would you say to others who basically say, look, the U.S. has this amazing logistics capability? You know, I have seen it in the field when
you have all deployed for war and it's a methodical, huge, heavy lift that the U.S. does better than anybody. Can that be deployed and in which way
would it be useful in the U.S. right now, as well the Army Corps of Engineers?
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, let's talk wider than just Department of Defense assets. If you want to win a war, traditionally, what you try to do is break up
your enemy and defeat him in detail. Napoleon asked what enemy he'd most like to fight and he respondent, a coalition because he felt that the
different nations would not pull together and he could defeat them separately.
If you want to lose a battle or lose a war, what you do is you allow yourself to defend yourself separately. So, what I'd say is if we fight 50
different fights against COVID-19 by all of the states and then add to that the territories, if we fight them individually and we allow each to have to
stand on its own, then our ability to be effective is going to be pretty limited, and we are seeing some of that. We are seeing the fact that states
are competing against each other in cases where they have to. And we're not massing the capability for provide focus works (ph) needed most at the time
So, I would say, first and foremost, even before we think about what Department of Defense assets, we have got to get a system to pull together
all the different parts of our nation, the governmental parts, the commercial parts and just the nongovernmental parts, the people who want to
help. Bring them into a unified effort. And I think we struggle so far with that.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you then about that because part of that unified, I guess, I mean, there are many elements to it, clearly, but the Defense
Production Act, which has been invoked but not, you know, let loose, so to speak.
Max Brooks, who is the son of Mel Brooks but has done a lot work on this stuff and who lectures at the Naval Academy, et cetera, recently said in an
interview there were ways, and, you know, forgive me, but the Defense Production Act could allow the federal government go to the condom factory
in Missouri and say, listen, you've got barrels of latex, we need those to make latex gloves. And we're requisitioning them and sending them, you
know, to the factory in Ohio and then we're going to send the made gloves to New York and et cetera, et cetera. Why hasn't happened that yet and
should it happen, in all ways?
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, I can't speak why it hasn't happened but I think it should happen. If you think about it, firms want to help. And so, in a
perfect world you say, well, we'll let everybody volunteer to help in the best way they can. But the reality is, firms have stockholders, they have
different equities pulling them in directions. So, a leader has a difficult time suddenly turning his firm or her firm in to supporting production.
So, the Defense Production Act really provides shelter for them. It allows the government to bring things into effective coordination and
synchronization and allows firms to do that without having to make a misstep in the business sense.
AMANPOUR: The president has now invoked it after about nine days, he's ordering General Motors to make ventilators and he's named his trade czar
to be the logistics czar for this. But let me ask you about leadership. You know, you wrote the book on that. You have been -- you know, you've been
called in by the City of Boston to try to help them fight this.
Just in terms of leadership, what are you seeing as a sort of a front against this enemy?
MCCHRYSTAL: Yes. I think we are starting to see more and more leadership across the country and it's spreading widely and people are rising up. But
what do you want? First off, in the case of a pandemic or a great crisis because now we have a pandemic which is a viral amorphous threat, an enemy
that's hard to put our arms around. And so, the average American and person in the world is frightened. And we have this economic crisis and we are not
even quite sure how that's going to affect each of us in the long-term. So, it's uncertain.
So, what do you want from the leaders? The first thing you want is someone who is candid and honest all the time. You need to have them tell you what
they believe the truth to be using the best data available. You don't want them to sugarcoat it because when things change, immediately you realize
that they are not being honest with you and so, you start to doubt all the information you get.
You want them to be inspirational to build your confidence, but that doesn't mean by negating the truth. I think what you want from confidence
is you want the commitment that we are going to beat this. Think of the summer of 1940 when Winston Churchill became the prime minister of Great
Britain. He couldn't offer a high degree of confidence. They just been run out off, the -- and of Europe. But what he said was, we will not quit. We
will never surrender. We'll fight on the beaches, et cetera, et cetera. That's what I think we need from the leader.
And then from a management standpoint, we need a leader who brings people together. We need a leader who brings individuals together, but also, teams
together. Brings the states together, brings municipalities together, gets people operating as a team of teams so that we're stronger than each of us
would be separately.
AMANPOUR: General Stanley McChrystal, thank you so much indeed for joining us this evening.
MCCHRYSTAL: You are kind to have me.
AMANPOUR: And there really is only this one story dominating the news across the world, while so many important issues are falling off the radar,
like the 2020 presidential election. At least for the Democrats, for now.
It is serving President Trump, though as his daily briefings deliver huge ratings and his highest poll numbers yet. But some of the things he says
from the podium are misleading at best.
Joining me from Fort Myers, Florida is David Urban. He is President Trump's confidant and he's an adviser on his 2020 re-election campaign.
David Urban, welcome back to the program.
DAVID URBAN, SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP 2020 ELECTION: Christiane, thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: Now, we have talked a couple of weeks ago as this crisis was ramping up. And I want to know whether you still think that things are
going as they should do from the White House. You are a little critical back then saying there needs to be a much more coordinated effort,
listening to the experts.
So, what do you make first of President Trump having said that he wants to reopen the country for business by Easter and now, actually, listening to
the experts and having to, in fact, extend social distancing?
URBAN: Well, Christiane, I, at the time, supported the president's position. I think what he said at the time was it is aspirational. He would
like to see it. He doesn't know -- if you go back and look at his exact words said, didn't know if he'd be able to do it. It was aspirational. I
would like to see it opened. But, obviously, he would consult with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and others, and he did so. And determined that it
wouldn't be plausible -- it wouldn't be possible to do it at this time. And so, extended it for another two weeks, which I think is the responsible
thing to do.
AMANPOUR: And he may even have to extend it beyond that. I mean, look, we are hearing all over this may be, you know, several months before there's
an ability to get back to normal. But I just wonder --
URBAN: Well, Christiane, on that --
AMANPOUR: -- you've heard from General McChrystal -- yes?
URBAN: Oh, I'm sorry. There's a little bit of a lag here. I would just say that -- and I would encourage your viewers to not take my word for it or
anybody else's word. You could go -- there's a great resource available, that I would say -- I'm just going to look at the website, so I don't get
it wrong, www.health data.org., which is run out of the University of Washington.
It's the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, IMHE, which has an incredibly detailed model of different countries and the United States does
-- the United States projects beds needed, ICUS, ventilators, does it across the United States and state by state. Predicts that the United
States will have peaked demand -- exactly, will peak, actually, the coronavirus crisis here in the United States on April 15th, will be the
peak for the nation and then breaks it down state by state and gives you a really in-depth look at it. And I would -- instead of people, you know,
kind of opining or guessing, they can look at the experts. This is one site that expert, I think, is very useful.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Well --
URBAN: And I have heard is being relied on by lots of different folks. So --
AMANPOUR: Yes. As you know, David Urban, the president has the best experts around him on that podium every day, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah
Birx. I mean, these are very, very major experts. And I just wonder --
AMANPOUR: -- since we're talking about experts, what you make of a pretty loud voice online of president's supporters who are just denigrating
Anthony Fauci and, you know, the whole nonsense about conspiracy theories and, oh, he's just trying to take down the president? I mean, really? At
this time? That can happen?
URBAN: Yes. Well, listen. So, Christiane, I don't think politics has any place in the current forum and I don't think it's -- it should be -- people
on the Trump side should be denigrating Dr. Fauci. I don't think people Speaker Pelosi should be denigrating the president. I think what people in
America want to see is kind of the cooperation and collaboration you've seen between Governor Cuomo and President Trump, and Governor Newsom and
I mean, there are people who are not even close on the ideological spectrum who are working together and cooperating and talking despite their very,
very strong differences. I think that should be the model for how all Americans are moving forward during this incredibly trying time in our
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you because, again, you are former military, a couple of things. You have seen this pretty massive airlift coming in from
China now. I mean, we're used to seeing the U.S. do massive airlifts of aid to many, many other parts of the world. But the Chinese have -- well,
there's been a civilian plane chartered with a huge amount of required equipment from China and there may be many more.
What do you make of that?
URBAN: Yes, Christiane, a couple things.
You had asked General McChrystal, who I have a great deal of admiration for, about the military. The military is really surging forward here in
lots of different ways. You correctly point out the Army Corps. It's gone up to the Javits Center in New York and building out hospitals and
converting hotel rooms to bed space.
They are sending to hospital ships to both the -- one to the East Coast, one to the West Coast. The military is surging greatly. Of interest,
though, you should note that the primary response of the military and these types of situations is each state's National Guard.
And in the state of New York, for example, it's the 42nd Infantry Division. They have roughly 20,000 individuals who serve in that unit. And I believe,
to date, there have only been about 3,000 of those folks called into action.
So, I think before any -- there's a federal response by the U.S. military, each of these Guard units would be called up and mobilized.
To the air bridge from China, unfortunately, this is the president and lots of others here in the United States are pointing to. Nothing's made in
America anymore. So, PPE, the protective equipment, parts for respirators, lots of the things that we need to move forward throughout this crisis are
And so it's very difficult to get them here. We'd love to see more respirators made here, but it's hard to turn a car factory into a
respirator factory very quickly. These are complex medical pieces of equipment.
And it's very difficult to do. And you talked about -- with General McChrystal about the Defense Production Act. I think lots of folks have
been kind of bellying up to the bar, so to speak, and offering to make things. The challenge is getting some of those critical parts which come in
from certain factories in China, unfortunately.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I mean, this is a challenge also with kind of saying it as it is.
It's ridiculous to invoke the idea of nationalization, like the president did, comparing getting companies to do something in a time of crisis to
Venezuela, which is a total basket case. I mean, it's just not -- apples and oranges, isn't it, there?
And the other thing I want to ask you is, you heard Stanley McChrystal say, one of the things a great leader has to do in times of crisis is level with
the people. Don't dissemble. Don't say one thing one day and have to retract it another day. Don't try to play down a crisis.
So I'm trying to figure out what you think of President Trump suggesting for instance, coronavirus, was comparable to flu, or death toll of car
accidents, all of that kind of stuff. In your view, has that been helpful, or has it just added to a sense of some confusion and sort of
haphazardness, certainly at the beginning of the response to this crisis?
URBAN: Well, Christiane, I would say in the clip you just ran there a few moments ago, you had Dr. Fauci talking about total number of deaths. And
Dr. Fauci said, look, this could -- there could be a range.
It could be upwards of X and downwards of Y. And he used the flu comparison there as well. So, even the best experts use comparisons to try to give a
frame of reference.
I think what the president's trying to do, what he tried to do initially was and continues to try to do is to provide hope for the American people.
He's going to -- he steps back. He lets Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and others answer the substantive questions.
But he tries to be optimistic, hopeful and aspirational. I don't think those two are incompatible.
AMANPOUR: I want to ask you something about how the U.S. has been looked at from overseas, while all these other countries, all your allies, are
facing the same issue.
Angela Merkel has done an amazing job. Everybody says that the testing and all this sort of very rigorous moves that she has brought in has been very,
very important. And, in fact, there was a tweet just a couple of days ago, whereby the Germans were telling people in the United States, their
citizens, to get back to Germany ASAP to be able to have a chance over there, which is pretty extraordinary, when you think about it.
And on the other side, you have got Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, who's busy saying, let's go out, this is just overhyped by the
media, we need to take care of our economy and this and that.
In Brazil, you have got organized crime leaders in the favelas keeping social distancing, because the government's not doing it.
Just talk to me a little bit about leadership for a moment.
Look, I think there is -- during these times of crisis, I think it is important. I think, look, you don't have to take my word for it or your
word for it. I think the American people are speaking.
You see this most recent Gallup poll, most recent "Washington Post"/ABC News poll; 60 percent of the people in the Gallup poll feel the president's
doing a great -- a very positive job, a very good job handling this crisis.
In "The Washington Post"/ABC News poll, 51 percent of people do. I think the way you see the president leading through this is the lens that you
view it from -- him from to begin with.
So I think he's doing a good job. I know there are others that don't share that feeling. But I think he is listening to the experts. I think he defers
to the experts. I think he starts each day with these briefings, gives him an overview, and then steps back and lets the surgeon general speak,
director of the CDC, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx.
So I don't see where the president is not leading from the front here.
AMANPOUR: So, you just mentioned those polls.
And I was actually going to come to that, because it's true. His poll ratings are up. I believe, though, the ABC/"Washington Post" one is 49
percent approval, 47 percent disapproval. It's the highest, but it still is not cracking 50 percent.
Why do you think that?
URBAN: Look, Christiane, I always say, during the campaign, during the 2016 campaign, in the state of Pennsylvania, which the president won for
the first time, a Republican won for the first time in 30 years, when we won the election, the president was at 39 percent.
So I'm not quite sure that there's a lot of -- I'm not quite sure the accuracy and veracity of polling is an accurate reflection of the mood. I
think it's one tool to measure, but it's not necessarily an overall tool.
And, again, as I say and point out, I believe that where you come at this is where you where you sit. If you like the president, you think he's doing
a good job. If you don't like the president, you don't think he's doing a good job. And those numbers are reflective of his overall numbers
throughout his presidency.
AMANPOUR: Last question, because it's the president being the president or Trump doing a Trump, his tweet yesterday in which he quoted an article
about the ratings now on television for the daily briefing.
He tweeted: "President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing, Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted
an average audience of 8.5 million cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of 'The Bachelor.'"
So he's repeating what was written. Obviously, the rest of what was written was that -- stuff that we have just talked about, some of the information
in those briefings are misleading or just wrong sometimes.
But what do you make of that? I mean, the president loves those ratings.
No, listen, the president understands the television -- the media of television better than any other president in modern history. I think he
views them as that he's being able to get his message out to many people across the United States. And he feels that there's success by those pure
I think it's pretty self -- I think -- I don't have to explain it. I think it speaks for itself. The tweet speaks for itself.
AMANPOUR: And so, very, very finally, I mean, it's not really -- I don't know whether this is the right time to talk about this. But where do you
put him for the November election?
Because this -- obviously, this crisis, for obvious reasons, has knocked the election campaign right off the map for the moment.
URBAN: Yes, Christiane, it's obviously -- when you and I last met a few weeks ago, the beginning of March, no one -- you couldn't anticipate that
this level -- we would get to this level all across the globe.
I don't want to make any projections. I hope and pray everybody and their families across America and across the globe get through this with minimal
loss of life. We're obviously going to have a huge economic disruption around the world.
I think that we need to focus on that, to begin with, getting families healed, individuals healed, businesses back going. And then we can really
began an earnest discussion of the election which should be coming up this November.
But we have lots of time between now and then.
AMANPOUR: I hear you.
David Urban, thank you so much indeed for joining us.
Now, the WHO said that the best way to tackle this virus is to test, test, test. This is a call to action that pioneering biochemist Jennifer Doudna
and her colleagues at U.C. Berkeley are working on now, as they aim to use their biology labs to test up to 2,000 samples per day.
Doudna, co-founder of the gene editing tool CRISPR, is using that technology to try to fight COVID-19, as she explains to our Walter Isaacson
And full disclosure, of course, Walter is currently writing a book on Doudna and her work with CRISPR.
WALTER ISAACSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dr. Jennifer Doudna, welcome to the show.
DR. JENNIFER DOUDNA, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: Thank you for having me.
ISAACSON: In early March, when you watched the spread of the coronavirus, you suddenly decided it was time for scientists to kick into action.
So, you took your Berkeley lab and some of the surrounding labs in the San Francisco area, and you mobilized them. Tell me what you did and why.
DOUDNA: We held a meeting to discuss how the scientists at U.C. Berkeley and our surrounding institutions could get together and address this
And one thing that emerged from that meeting was that we should find a way to use our resources and our knowledge to test for the virus. Many of us
agree that one of the most the -- most important things to be done right now to address the disease is to understand who's infected and how to keep
ISAACSON: And if you decide you're going to test, you do a regular test, but you have to get it approved, right, by the CDC.
And once you have done that, what -- can you do, what, 500, 1,000 tests per day?
DOUDNA: So, it's important to understand we're academic scientists. We don't do clinical testing. To do clinical tests with patient samples
requires regulatory approval from multiple agencies.
So we have been on a very fast track to learn, first of all, what kind of regulation do we need to comply with? How do we ensure compliance? And how
do we get our scientists trained to work safely under these conditions, and do it very fast?
So we have been fortunate that the state of California under its emergency declaration has made it easier to get approval. The Food and Drug
Administration at the federal level has also been very cooperative in helping us to do this.
And as a result, we are really getting very close to being able to do a high-throughput tests for patient samples at U.C. Berkeley.
ISAACSON: Many other universities' labs are being shut down, like with the rest of the university. Do you think it'd be a good idea for universities
around the country to get permission to keep their biology labs open and shift them over to this thing of testing, so every community could have a
high-throughput testing center?
DOUDNA: Well, I would first say that, you know, we're inspired by the University of Washington.
Many people may be aware that their folks there, scientists, have been testing patient samples for weeks. And they have played a big role,
actually, in helping to stem the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus up in the Seattle and larger area in Washington state.
So we're inspired by this. I think it's incredibly important that people be working safely at this time. So we're very cognizant of having to use low-
density laboratory conditions, making sure that our scientists are appropriately protected physically from any potential for infection.
But, yes, I mean, I think, beyond that, you know, if those conditions can be met, then I think having scientists working at this time and
contributing their expertise to fight this pandemic is very valuable.
ISAACSON: You said SARS-CoV-2. Is that the same as the COVID-19 and the coronavirus we have been talking about?
So, let's do a little terminology check. So I have had to learn this myself. So, SARS-CoV-2 refers to the actual virus that is causing the
current pandemic. Coronaviruses are the family of viruses. That's the family of viruses that SARS-CoV-2 belongs to. And COVID-19 is the
terminology for the disease that this virus causes.
ISAACSON: You will be doing the type of tests we have been doing for the past couple of months, which is just a test for the presence of the virus.
I have noticed that now, in Britain and other places, they're starting to do antibody tests. Can you explain the difference?
So the test that we're doing at Berkeley is a test that looks at the virus RNA. It's the genetic material that allows the virus to replicate in --
upon infection. So, we're using a test called the polymerase chain reaction that's approved by the World Health Organization and the CDC.
It's a standard test. And, importantly, it's able to detect the presence of the virus very soon after infection. So, the difference between that type
of a test and what you're asking about, what we call a serological tests that looks for antibodies to the virus, is that typically when someone gets
exposed to the virus, and their body makes antibodies, it takes a while for that to happen.
So, it's really a test that looks after the fact. Has someone been infected by the virus? Also very useful to know, obviously, and to figure out who
has immunity to the virus.
But one of the challenges right now with those types of tests, as I have been learning, is that the testing materials are not accurate enough to
ensure detection of just the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Right now, there's a lot of cross-reactivity with other types of viruses. And, of course, many, many virologists and scientists are working on this
problem, and they will probably sort it out. But I think that's one of the challenges with those tests right now.
ISAACSON: It's taking four to six days to get the results of some of these tests. Would you be able to do it like in a few hours or a day?
DOUDNA: Yes, so that's a primary goal of our lab at Berkeley and the Innovative Genomics Institute is to be fast.
So we have brought in high-throughput robotic equipment. We have got companies helping us with data management, and we hope to be able to do
1,000 to 2,000 samples a day when we get -- when we're rolling.
ISAACSON: As you know, I'm writing a book about you and the discovery of CRISPR, which is a gene-editing technology.
And CRISPR, that technology is based on a trick that bacteria figured out over the course of three billion years of how to fight viruses. Can you
explain how CRISPR does that for bacteria?
So CRISPR is an adaptive immune system. It allows bacteria to detect viruses and protect themselves from future infection. And it's a system
that a handful of scientists were studying.
And then, a few years ago, it was recognized that this system, which operates as an immune system, that we could actually harness it as a
technology for something quite different, which is genome editing.
And I think it's a -- I have been reflecting on this during this pandemic. It's a fascinating parallel that bacteria have been dealing with viruses
forever. They have had to come up with creative ways to fight them. And now here we are, humans, in a pandemic facing this challenge.
And so we often think about, how can CRISPR potentially impact this pandemic in ways that will be beneficial to humans?
ISAACSON: Can CRISPR be used as a detection tool to help us detect the virus in ourselves?
DOUDNA: So this is a really interesting use of CRISPR enzymes that takes advantage of something that my lab discovered about how they work, which is
that, in some cases, the enzymes are able to interact with a piece of nucleic acid, which is RNA or DNA.
And when they do that, they turn on an activity, a capability that allows a big amplification of the signal. So, in other words, for every molecule of
virus RNA that gets detected, we can see many, many molecules of a reporter piece of nucleic acid, like a little piece of DNA, getting cut.
And so there's a way to do that, use that activity, such that there's a big release of a chemical signal that can be seen visually. And so you get up
at the -- have the ability to use this CRISPR system to literally detect and then report on its detection of a piece of viral RNA very, very
ISAACSON: So, in other words, you can engineer it so that if it cuts something that's the virus, we're talking about, it glows, it sort of has a
phosphorescent or some signal.
Does that mean you could have home detection kits that could do it quickly? And anybody could just look at it the way, they could a pregnancy test, and
say, OK, I have got it.
DOUDNA: That's the idea, absolutely. I think that's a very interesting possibility of how this system could ultimately be used.
ISAACSON: Are we talking a week, a month or a year?
DOUDNA: We're not talking a week. We may be talking months. We're certainly -- I think we're -- I think we're less than a year from that.
It's hard to say.
ISAACSON: Now, we have been talking about detection, like how can you test them detect this.
Let's talk about treatments for second. I know that, at Stanford, one of your friends and colleagues, Stanley Qi, has come up with something he
called PAC-MAN, which is a way for the -- actually use a CRISPR-based system to actually attack the virus if somebody's sick.
Tell us how that's progressing.
DOUDNA: Yes, so this is another clever idea about how to use CRISPR enzymes to fight the viral infection.
The idea there is to literally, like -- for those of you that remember Pac- Man, like I do, this is literally using enzymes that will go after and cut and destroy only the viral RNA and not RNAs that are present in normal
And so this is, I think, a clever approach. It's been tested in a laboratory setting. And there's some hope there that -- it looks like that,
technically, it could work.
I think the challenge is, how do you get that into a patient? How you get into infected cells?
ISAACSON: And so, if you wanted to get into infected cells, you would have to have a delivery mechanism. What are the delivery mechanisms?
DOUDNA: Well, it's very difficult, because in -- the infection with this virus involves infection in the lung.
And so we would need to have a way to deliver these CRISPR enzymes into lung cells. And that's something that's very hard right now. Fortunately,
there's an effort at the Innovative Genomics to do exactly that for a different purpose, namely, for treating cystic fibrosis, which is a lung
disease that -- where we think eventually the CRISPR technology could have an impact.
ISAACSON: So, the notion that these CRISPR enzymes could cut up and chop away and destroy the COVID-19 virus in somebody's lungs, let me ask the
same question. Is that months away, years away?
DOUDNA: Probably years, honestly.
I think we're trying to accelerate the pace of doing that sort of testing. But, as you may know, that sort of test would require going into human
patients and going through phase one, phase two, phase three clinical trials.
So this is -- realistically, it's years.
ISAACSON: Another thing CRISPR could do, in theory, would be to edit our own genes, and so that our cells don't have receptors that allow a
particular virus to get in.
Is that a possibility?
DOUDNA: Well, that's a possibility in the longtime future, I would say. It's certainly not something that will be, I think, effective in this
One of the challenges to doing -- taking that approach is that one has to know, first of all, which receptor to go after. And we do know that for the
SARS-CoV-2 virus. But when we talk about a receptor for a virus, we're talking about a normal protein that's on the surface of a human cell.
And, as you can imagine, that could be problematic to try to remove it. It's probably there for a reason. So that's one thing. But then there's
also the issue, as we just talked about for the Pac-Man approach, that one has to figure out delivery and how to target the CRISPR proteins to cells
where they could create protective changes.
And I think that's, again, something that's going to take years to develop.
ISAACSON: We say it will take years. Didn't we just have a world famous case a year-and-a-half ago where a Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, actually
did that for the HIV virus receptor of a cell, but he was able to edit the embryos of kids, so they no longer had that receptor and couldn't catch
So, you say it's a long time away, but it's already been done for one receptor, right?
DOUDNA: OK. Well, there's a lot of ways to answer that question.
First of all, I think the ethics of that study were, unfortunately, very flawed. And that study has been pretty roundly condemned by the
Beyond that, I would say that doing any kind of embryo editing is just impractical for multiple reasons, both technical and kind of ethical. And,
finally, one would need to know in advance which proteins to target.
In the case of HIV, we do know about the receptor proteins for HIV infection, but, for most viruses, or certainly for emerging viruses in the
future, we can't necessarily predict.
ISAACSON: When you put together a consortium that has various universities and philanthropies and foundations, did you, in this case, say, we're going
to have a slightly different set of rules about -- to the extent to which we're going to try to profit from or use this in a proprietary way, and
instead share it?
DOUDNA: Yes, actually, that's been a topic of very active discussion, because I think many scientists, myself included, we don't want to be -- we
have no desire to profit financially from this. We really want to be contributing our expertise. And we're not seeking to profit from it.
We are working with university officials to see if we can put out publicly a statement about how intellectual property will be managed for this
pandemic, how we can make discoveries that are going to come from this large team of people that are now working on the problem, openly available,
so that it can be developed very quickly.
And I'm optimistic that we're going to be able to do that quite fast. So, stay tuned. We're hoping to make an announcement about that in the near
ISAACSON: Dr. Jennifer Doudna, thank you for joining us this evening.
DOUDNA: Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: And we will be waiting for that announcement.
And, finally, in troubling times, celebrating love and connection is more important than ever. That is exactly what these two front-line
epidemiologists demonstrated over the weekend.
The happy couple decided to tie the knot at a hospital in Massachusetts. Only a few guests were there in surgical masks and seated six feet apart.
The ceremony even ended with the couple bumping elbows.
Couples around the world, from Hong Kong to Malaysia to Argentina and elsewhere, are finding creative ways to tie the knot, all of this love in
the time of corona, shamelessly stealing from Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
That is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across social media.
Thanks for watching, and goodbye from London.