Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Says CDC Director Doing A "Very Good Job" As Sources Tell CNN Redfield Is On Hot Seat; Coronavirus Cases Trending Up In 18 States; CDC Quietly Releases Guidance For Reopening After Most States Have Already Begun The Process; Cautious Optimism After Early Success For Potential Coronavirus Vaccines; Trump's Tweets Offer Snapshot of Conspiracy Mindset. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 20, 2020 - 20:00   ET



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The state of Michigan on track to record a $6.2 billion shortfall in just the next 18 months. That will be a drag on the economy as well - Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Yes. It's worse than - than any of us really realized. Thank you so much, Miguel. Thanks to all of you for watching. Anderson takes it now.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening. A lot to get to tonight. From hopeful news with vaccines, with all the appropriate notes of caution that are going to come with it, to everything on the President's mind, it seems, except the pandemic.

And even when he was talking about the pandemic - the one that today recorded the single most cases in a 24 hour period around the world according to WHO, the one which has taken more than 93,000 lives in this country alone - some of what the President said was in the context of threatening state governors if they don't arrange voting in a state in a way that he thinks will help his re election.

We'll talk about that tonight, chiefly because it's a strange thing to be obsessing over in the middle of a pandemic. As is sidelining or marginalizing the nation's top public health experts. At the very moment, all 50 states are lifting outbreak related restrictions in one form or another.

Today the President's press secretary gave a briefing. Dr. Anthony Fauci did not. Dr. Deborah Birx did not. The CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, they did not either, or he did not either.

According to a senior administration official, informal conversations have been taking place about, quote, "what to do", unquote, about Dr. Redfield. Another source telling CNN that he's worried he might have a target on his back, and that senior official tells us the director's fear is not unfounded. Late today, the President denied it.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you think Robert Redfield is doing a good job leading the CDC?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I do. I do. It's fake news, Kaitlan. Fake news. Therefore you can report it on CNN.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You didn't -- you didn't --

TRUMP: It's perfect for CNN.


COOPER: Well, the President has, of course, said similar things about people that he then goes on to fire. But regardless of whether Dr. Redfield's job is safe or not, neither he nor his fellow public health experts are front and center at such a significant moment.

The last coronavirus task force briefing was on the 27th of April. That's 23 days ago. Remember those briefings before the President hijacked them? They actually had a lot of good scientific value, scientific information given by Dr. Fauci and Dr. - Dr. Redfield and Dr. Birx.

So now the governors, mayors - although Dr. Redfield didn't really show up much at those briefings, he wasn't really welcome, it seems, to present as much back then. Mayors, school superintendents, business owners and the public at large are instead hearing primarily from the man who is taking a drug his own FDA warns against taking. The man who suggested doing experiments injecting fellow citizens with disinfectant.

Now, if it counts for anything, the CDC's long awaited reopening guidelines, they have come out with very little fanfare. They were posted at the very latest last night, but nobody even knew to look for them until the CDC sent an e-mail about - about it this morning. And, of course, this is after all 50 states have reopened in one form or another.

Just to be clear, a good number of these states do not meet the CDC's guidelines of two weeks of declining cases for reopening at all. Those were the White House guidelines as well. According to our data from Johns Hopkins University, in 18 states, new cases are trending upward. 15 states are - the cases are steady. And in 17, they're trending down.

New polling suggests that the public is concerned, regardless of the President's enthusiasm for lifting virus related restrictions, and his repeated claim that this is what the country wants to do.

Take a look. New polling from Quinnipiac. 75 percent of people, and 50 percent of Republicans, saying they would prefer a slow reopening, even if it means a worsening economy, over the opposite.

And new polling from the Associated Press is even more specific. It shows 83 percent of Americans either somewhat or very concerned that lifting restrictions in their area will lead to new infections, and 53 percent saying they're very or extremely concerned such steps will cause a spike in cases.

But now that this all appears to be well underway, guidelines or not, the question is, will people stick to the guidelines and what they themselves can do to keep others safe? Such as this from the CDC's own tips for social distancing. And I'm quoting now.

"Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering when around others, including when you have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store." They continue. "Keep at least six feet between yourselves - yourself and others, even when you wear a face covering."

Now, the President, as you know, says he doesn't see himself wearing a mask in the White House, even though his staff is now required to. As for the Vice President today, he was batting about 500. He wore a mask at an event in Florida, at which he was actually delivering masks. However, at a restaurant later, neither he nor Florida's governor were covered. And as for social distancing, not so much there.

Doctors Fauci, Birx and Redfield do wear masks in public, at least they were the last time that we got a glimpse of them. But ready or not, states are reopening. CNN's Nick Watt has the latest on that. He joins us from Los - Los Angeles. So what are you learning about - about some of the changes that are in store?


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, here in Los Angeles today, the big change was car washes were allowed to reopen, and we've been here all day watching these guys wearing masks, trying to social distance. They're washing and disinfecting people's cars.

The governor of California says Los Angeles, 10 million people, probably a few weeks behind some of the other counties in this state that are moving a little faster, like Orange County, which interestingly about a couple weeks ago, we saw a big protest down there against lockdown. And today Orange County reported its most deaths, its most new cases since all of this began.

But that is really going to be the reality across the country. We're going to be playing a game of cat and mouse, a game of stop and go with this virus for some time to come.


WATT (voice-over): Retail reopens in Miami Beach today, but not the beaches or the hundreds of bars and restaurants. Not yet.

MAYOR AN GELBER, MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA (on camera): This is to see how we do work. We're a crowd-based city so we want to make sure we don't draw too large a crowd.

WATT (voice-over): In New York city they're now installing ultraviolet lamps on buses and trains that flash and kill the virus during overnight cleaning to keep cramped commuters safe. And starting tomorrow in certain parts of the state, religious gatherings allowed, but ten people max. GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK (on camera): As a former altar boy, I

get it.

WATT (voice-over): And there is a renewed public education push.

CUOMO (on camera): You drive through some of these communities and you can see that social distancing isn't happening. PPE is not being used. And, hence, the virus spreads.

WATT (voice-over): As of this morning when Connecticut got rolling, all 50 states have now started reopening, yet in at least 18, including Kentucky, new case counts are going up.

GOV. ANDY BESHERA (D), KENTUCKY (on camera): But the way we're reopening gives us the type of gradual and safe reopening where we can do it while watching the data at the same time.

WATT (voice-over): Boston now targeting June 1 to start, but taking more time than the rest of Massachusetts before opening up, say, office space.

MAYOR MARTY WALSH (D), BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS (on camera): For example, making sure that when people go into buildings, they get temperature checked, they get asked some questions - some basic questions. Making sure there is proper protocol in place, the tracing.

WATT (voice-over): July 4 still six plus weeks away, is now the goal to have most businesses back open for the 10 million who live here Los Angeles County. Maybe even movie production.

DONNA LANGLEY, CHAIRMAN, UNIVERSAL FILMED ENTERTAINMENT GROUP (on camera): The longer production remains shutdown, the longer the industry in jeopardy is being cut.

WATT (voice-over): And tonight, new concerns about the accuracy of the number of COVID cases in Florida and Georgia, two states that were among the first to reopen. In Florida an official was removed from the team that publishes the number of cases and deaths online. And in Georgia's online report, an error and a confusing graph brought criticism. The governor claims the data was accurate, but arranged differently than people expected.


COOPER: And, Nick, there's some good news out of California where you are.

WATT: Yes, there is. The state of California had rented a couple of entire hospital buildings, and they've just announced that next month they are going to close those down. They say that they've flattened the curve and dealt with the initial smaller surge in hospitalizations. But they are going to keep a couple of other facilities, they say, on what they're calling "warm shutdown status" just in case, Anderson, the virus comes back and comes back hard. Back to you. COOPER: Nick Watt, appreciate it. Thank you. Joining us now CNN chief

medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta. And Kathleen Sebelius former governor of Kansas and secretary of health and human services during the Obama administration.

Secretary Sebelius, as we mentioned CNN reporting that the CDC director Robert Redfield may be on thin ice. The president says not the case. Is this really the right moment for tensions between the White House and the director of the CDC? It seemed like there were some tensions between him and Dr. Birx as well.

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, FORMER HHS SECRETARY: Well, it's a terrible time for tension with the CDC who are the gold standard epidemiologists, not just in this country, but around the world. Every country wants to have a CDC-like entity. They're the folks who track and trace, who tell us about the disease, who can help state and local officials monitor what's going on, and who, luckily, the guidance has been freed.

I was pleased that the guidance that is detailed and industry by industry, area by area, it's finally been released. Not really publicized, but it's out there. And so, local officials can get their hands on it and try and figure out what the national plan is.


The problem is, Anderson, as you've alluded to, and Sanjay as well, without support from the -- I mean, the president ideally would have touted the fact that CDC guidance is available, would be urging all governors in the country to follow the guidance, would be suggesting that we use this as a measurement for our employers and schools and others to be safe and secure.

And just the opposite is happening. The guidance is put out, kind of, in the dead of night. We're not sure -- we didn't even hear from the CDC director. We're told he's on thin ice. It's very, very confusing.

I joined with 19 other health officials today in putting together a piece on open safely, which actually suggests we follow the guidance. We follow what Dr. Birx has suggested, we follow what the White House has put out, but I'm really worried about the fact that we're getting a very different message out of this administration than we should be getting.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, Sanjay, the guidance that the White House, you know, several weeks ago put out about how to reopen the three stages, I mean, that just seems to be, kind of, tossed out the window. I mean, for all -- I know we asked Dr. Birx about that at the last, you know, time we were able to talk to her which was a couple weeks ago at a town hall, and, you know, she seemed to be indicating that, no, no, no, that's still, you know, the gold standard, but it's not being listened to.


COOPER: And not even by the White House or by the vice president who is eating in a restaurant, you know, with the Florida governor.

GUPTA: Right. I mean, you know -- so if you look at the -- first of all, the gating criteria for states to reopen, it's pretty clear. I mean, you know, 14-day downward trend, have testing in place, make sure you can find people.

As Secretary Sebelius was saying, isolate them quickly, so you don't -- we're going to have more people get infected as you start to open up. It's a question of making sure it doesn't go into exponential growth, and that -- so having those things in place helps with that.

But you're right. I mean, the basic standards of wearing a mask because you may have the virus, behaving like you have the virus so you don't spread it to other people, it's still shocking to see those images because people are not practicing physical distancing.

They're not wearing a mask. I realize that there are people who get tested on a regular basis, but they could still be harboring the virus because, you know, you may be negative one day, you could be positive the next day. The tests do have a false negative rate.

There's all these things that people know about, so you do your best to be safe. That's the guidance. We're still in the middle of it. Do everything you can to not get people around you sick. It's basic, basic guidance, and yet, you know, we're not seeing it sort of demonstrated by people who should be doing that, which is really frustrating because I think a lot of public health officials see those scenes.

And you can't see the virus, but they see the virus in their mind. They see it moving around. They see a contagious virus potentially jumping from one person to the next, and that's what we're trying to avoid.


GUPTA: The guidance is out there now, people should pay attention to it.

SEBELIUS: And, Anderson, Sanjay said --

COOPER: Secretary Sebelius, what do you make of -- go ahead.

SEBELIUS: Well, I was just going to say one of the -- if you read any of the documents about how to deal with a difficult health situation with the pandemic, communication is one of the factors. It's not just testing, it's not just tracing, it's not isolation, social distancing.

Communication, a clear concise, direct, consistent communication. We don't have any of that. So, yes, we have guidance, we have leaders who are defying the guidance in their personal modeling and we have very different messages coming from state and local leaders. That leaves the public really kind of on their own to figure this out.

COOPER: Secretary Sebelius, I appreciate your time.

Sanjay is going to stick around. We're going to have more with him coming up.

Coming up next, some positive news on several potential coronavirus vaccines, but also why caution, of course, is called for. And later, a preview of a national live sporting event this Sunday. NBA legend, Charles Barkley, is going to join me to discuss the importance of a celebrity golfing event and coronavirus relief effort.



COOPER: Just a couple days after promising news, and a vaccine being developed by a company called Moderna raised hopes -- not to mention the price of shares on Wall Street -- there are two more announcements: one from Inovio, and the other from Johnson & Johnson.

Just as before, there's also reason for caution. CNN's senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins us now with a quick rundown.

So, what are we learning about the early results in these vaccine trials?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I'm glad you used the word "Early." We could also use the word "Incremental." This is a marathon, not a sprint. There are lots of little steps along the way in these clinical trials that we usually don't pay attention to, but, because this is the pandemic, we are.

So, let's talk about what Johnson & Johnson found. This was, I'm told by outside experts, a very well done study. They took 25 rhesus macaques, they vaccinated them, and then they challenged them with the virus, they actually gave these monkeys the virus.

And they found that they found they had developed antibodies from the vaccination, neutralizing antibodies, from the vaccination; and that when they were challenged, they had very low viral loads compared to monkeys who had not been vaccinated.

As a matter of fact, for eight of them they couldn't find any virus at all. So that is definitely a step in the right direction: that's what you want to see before you move on to human studies.

Inovio did something sort of similar, but with guinea pigs and mice. They found guinea pigs and mice, when they were vaccinated, developed these all-important neutralizing antibodies. Antibodies that glom onto the virus and prevent it from infecting human cells. -- Anderson

COOPER: And what are the big differences in testing mice and guinea pigs versus monkeys?

COHEN: You know, it's interesting, because I think that we've all been sort of trained to think that monkeys are the way to go because they're the most like us. But what several experts have told me, these are folks who have done vaccine trials themselves, they say that really it depends on the virus; that there is no need to have monkeys. You can use them, sometimes: sometimes you're actually better off with a mouse or a hamster. You're looking for the animal that best mimics what happens to an adult.

So, I'm told for COVID monkeys are fine, but other animals are fine, too.

COOPER: We should also just point out, just because something may show results in an animal doesn't necessarily mean it shows results in a human.

Can you lay out how many vaccine trials are actually being done right now?


COHEN: Right. So let's look at all of them, because that will show you that most of these will not work. So right now, according to the World Health Organization, there are eight vaccine developers in human clinical trials, actually doing work in humans.

Inovio, the one we just mentioned, is one of them. So that's eight. Four in China, three in the U.S., one in England. And 110 are sort of on their way, or they hope they're on their way, to doing human clinical trials.

We are not going to have 118 vaccines. Vaccines are notoriously difficult. Many, many start, few finish. These are very difficult clinical trials to run. Most of these will fail.

And I should say - and I certainly hope this isn't true - it is possible all of these will fail. We don't have a vaccine against HIV despite several decades of trying. It is possible we might not have a vaccine against COVID either.

COOPER: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much. Again, just want to point out. Animals, even other primates, are one thing. People are another.

Which is just one reason why we're glad to have the perspective tonight of Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. And we're with Dr. Sanjay Gupta as well.

Sanjay, these trials that start on animals, as I said, they don't always translate into human. So this news, again, should be taken with caution.

GUPTA: Right, absolutely. I mean, you know, were we not in the middle of a pandemic, I don't think we would be talking about this at all. I mean, you know, I think it's - it's one of these - these situations where I think people are looking for anything to hang onto, any - any glimmers of hope.

And I guess I understand that at some point. But we've got to - we've got to give a lot of caution, like Elizabeth was giving there, because a lot of them won't translate into humans out of these 108 or whatever number of vaccine trials. Most of them won't even progress on to the later phases. So we're hoping that they do. I will say that the, you know, the Moderna - I wonder if Dr. Osterholm home agrees with this - but the Moderna vaccine trial, even though it's very early, they just showed eight patients who - who have evidence of these antibodies.

It's a very interesting vaccine platform. We have not had a vaccine like this before. So it's a - it's a whole new way of thinking about things. There's a lot of innovation happening in medicine right now.

Again, we all hope that it works. There's no guarantee that it does. But some of the innovation, I think, is - is pretty fascinating, and worth highlighting, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Yes. Michael, I mean, Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, was on a call with the President and governors today, and said that - that a few hundred million doses of a vaccine by the end of the year is a, quote, "credible goal," - his term - but not a guarantee. What do you make of that?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, I think you have two issues to deal with. And I think Sanjay and Elizabeth said it very well. We're really in the very earliest days of this vaccine world.

I kind of liken it to being at Churchill Downs, and the horses have just cleared the gates, and people want us to declare the winner. We've got a long ways to go to get to a finished vaccine. So we can make vaccines now, based on the products that are in research, but there is no guarantee that that will be the product that might make it, if any do at all.

So I think the caution you're hearing here tonight on this show is optimistic caution. We all want a vaccine. We hope we have a vaccine. But the only fair way to report this is, in fact, there's still a lot of hurdles to go before we're going to have a successful vaccine.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Sanjay, they're - they are still very early, as - as Dr. Osterholm was saying. I mean, they're - they're still very early in the stages here of these trials.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, you know, so this - this vaccine that we're just talking about, the Messenger RNA vaccine from Moderna, which basically is a blueprint of a part of the virus. You give that to somebody and the body starts making this blueprint of the virus over and over again, and the generates antibodies to that.

I hope that makes sense to people. It is really fascinating. But, you know, they've moved along pretty quickly. So they're in phase two trials essentially now. To get into phase two trials can often take, you know, years, not - not months. So they're moving along fairly - fairly quickly.

But, yes, there's still a long way to go. There's no guarantee that it will work in larger percentages - larger percentages of the population. People who are vulnerable, elderly people, people who have pre existing conditions, they may respond differently. Even if it does work, you may need a booster shot as well, which would then extend the time line even further. There's all these - and then you got to manufacture it, you got to distribute it. That one requires to be distributed at a - at a particular temperature. That can be a challenge, you know, as you distribute it around the world.


GUPTA: So there's lots of considerations. Some of that they're - they're working on, Anderson. But this - we're very much at the beginning, though.

COOPER: Michael, I want to talk about this - a report that you and your colleagues put out today, for - calling for what you call smart testing. Can you just explain what an effective testing blueprint looks like? Because a lot of people have been talking - you know, focusing on testing, testing, testing. You say it should be smart testing. What does that mean?

OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, we all agree that testing is a very important part of responding to the COVID pandemic, so there's no question about that.


But we've had so many people that have just said we have to do millions of tests and millions of tests and millions of tests, without any understanding of what they're asking for or asking about.

And what we're saying is that you have to understand that a test is not just a single thing that happens. You have to be testing the right population. Why are you testing these people? Today if I tested any citizen in the state of Minnesota for antibody, I'd probably find over half of them that have it, are false positive antibodies, meaning they don't really have it.

If I'm testing certain groups that I need to have absolute certainty that I've screened out for the virus like we just saw at the White House two weeks ago, we know that test didn't do that at all. Those are not examples of smart testing. So, you want the right test, for the right person, at the right time, with the right result.

Let me give you an example on right result. We find right now that many people who go to these auxiliary clinics or drive-by clinics are getting incomplete information. We can't even get back to them with the data about what the result was, or to health departments to have any tracking information.

So, this has got to be part of a system, much more than just if we're testing for 8,000 people today, we made it. It's like the Dow Jones average, we need to do smart testing to test those who need it and get the results back to them and make a difference.

COOPER: Well, it's pretty alarming, Michael, that even in the White House the testing they're doing, you're saying that's not smart testing. OSTERHOLM: That was not smart testing at all. I mean, trying to use

that test as it was used to protect the President of the United States is like giving squirt guns to the secret service and saying, "Protect the president." That was just not an effective use of that test because there were clearly examples we could have false negatives, many of them.

And so, again, testing is important, but you've got to use the right test, and how you use it. And we've got to make sure that we have -- we need free agents.

For example, many people are not aware of the fact that we're running these testing machines 24/7 right now around the world. These machines were never made for that. If you need spare parts today in the United States for these machines that are running like that, they come from Asia or Europe.

We just haven't thought about all the things that it takes to keep a testing system in place. And so that's what we're trying to come back to and say, I don't want to hear another governor say everybody go get tested. That is a wrong use of this test, and what we're trying to do is use it where we're going to have the most impact in trying to stop the pandemic, where we're going to know what's going on in our communities and using it in outbreak situations like these hot spots so that we're effectively controlling them. That's different than mindless, just go get tested.

COOPER: Michael Osterholm, it was a really fascinating report you put out. I appreciate it.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

COOPER: Sanjay as well. I want to apologize also for coughing twice. I have no symptoms. It's asthma I get every time this year.

Coming up next, what's on the president's mind in the middle of this pandemic that has nothing to do with the pandemic. We'll explain ahead.




COOPER: With today seeing the largest single-day increase in global cases of coronavirus, with more than 93,000 Americans now having lost their lives, and states reopening with new cases still rising, and a majority of Americans from both parties saying they'd prefer going slow, you would think that the president would be concerned about this, and this alone.

You might think he would feel the weight of the responsibility he has for 350 million Americans' lives, but then you might look at his Twitter feed. Quoting now. "Crazy Bernie Sanders is not a fighter. He gives up too easy. The dem establishment gets Alfred E. Newman (Mayor Pete) & @amyklobuchar to quit & endorse Sleepy Joe BEFORE Super Tuesday, & gets Pocahontas to stay in the race."

Now, if you're counting, that's three schoolyard names, one ethnic slur, all in a single tweet.

There is this also this one, that's also a twofer, maybe a threefer. Quoting again, "Roger Stone has been treated very unfairly. How about that jury Forewoman? Does anybody think that was fair? Disgraceful. Stay tuned. And guys like Low Ratings Psycho Joe Scarborough are allowed to walk the streets? Open Cold Case!"

That's the president of the United States, the chief executive, in the middle of a pandemic defending a convicted felon and a former fixer, and attacking a juror for doing her civic duty. Then, after using a slur, to anyone with mental illness, or caring for someone who may be suffering from mental illness, the president repeats his thinly-veiled allegation against Joe Scarborough committing murder.

We won't elaborate on the allegation, only to say it concerns a former congressional aide who collapsed from a heart arrhythmia. She hit her head and died, that is what the medical examiner in the case determined. Authorities never suspected foul play: it is not a cold case. To say otherwise is not only a slur on Joe Scarborough: it's being utterly heartless to this woman's family, and to her memory.

But that's what the president found time to do today.

He also promoted conspiracy theories about the former administration, and, yes, he did tweet a bit about the pandemic. Some of it was routine, some of it not.

He tweeted and I quote, "Michigan sends absentee ballot applications to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries in the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization, by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!"

He sent a similar tweet, by the way, about Nevada. The issue is not really that everything he said in them is factually false: it is. The important part is his threat to withhold funding from the states if they don't do his bidding.

And, late today, a senior administration official left that thread hanging, telling CNN, quote, "No decisions have been made at this time. Discussions are ongoing." Does the words, "I want you to do us a favor," though, does that ring any bells? Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it.

So, there's that, and there's also this. Military members, they vote by mail. So do students, so do entire states which only do mail-in voting. So does the president of the United States.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But the president himself has voted just two months ago by a mail-in ballot. There are several Republican states that are also doing these mail-in applications for ballots. And so, I'm confused, what is it that he thinks is illegal that's happening in Michigan? He doesn't really specify.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, first, with regard to the president doing a mail-in vote, the president is, after all, the president which means he's here in Washington, he's unable to cast his vote down in Florida, his -- his state of residence.

So, for him, that's why he had to do a mail-in vote. But he supports mail-in voting for a reason. When you have a reason that you're unable to be present.


COOPER: Perspective now from CNN's Kaitlan Collins, who asked that question, and CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash.

Kaitlan, first of all, what do you make of Secretary McEnany's response? Because it seemed, you know, ironic coming from the president, first of all, who goes to Florida quite often. I'm wondering what you made of the response.

COLLINS: Well, I don't think it's surprising that the president votes by mail. Of course, he doesn't live in the state that he now calls home, Florida. But the point overall was that the president cannot vote there.

But people and their concern in these states, and why we're seeing this move in toward mail-in ballots and the applications that are happening, is because people are concerned about what it's going to look like when there are primaries and when the general election happens in November.

It's not just November that is a concern for some of these secretaries of state. It's primaries that are happening before then and whether or not people should be standing in line close to each other for hours on end waiting to vote if, depending on where we are, what progress has been made about the pandemic so far.

So that's why it was so notable seeing the president go so hard after Michigan today when you've seen Georgia's secretary of state also make similar moves and, of course, the secretary of state in Nevada is a Republican. They're moving to an all-mail-in voting for their primary over the summer.

So, that was the question. You know, he's only singling out certain states like Michigan. And later in the cabinet room he tied it directly to polling, talking about a battleground state in Michigan, saying he just got new polling in that he says has him up in Michigan. So making clear there is certainly a political aspect to this.

COOPER: Dana, what is the political calculation for the president here? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's so incredibly

transparent. I mean, that is what is consistently remarkable about this president, is that he doesn't hide what he's doing. I mean, he is -- in a way that we used to have to peel back the --

COOPER: Right. He says quiet stuff out loud.

BASH: Always. We always historically have had to peel back the onion, what's really going on inside the White House? He does it on Twitter. And today he did it in an extraordinary way, given the amount of time that he used, a minimal amount of time to really explode against a whole range of people, as you said.

The thing about Michigan and Nevada which he didn't mention as Kaitlan said, is that it is a belief and strong belief in the president's political orbit, that if there is mail-in -- if there are mail-in ballots, the Democrats will do better and Republicans will do worse.

That is the political belief. That is why he said what he said. Not just that. I remember, Anderson, talking to one of the president's friends as this was beginning, one of those weeks where he was really going at it with the governors, and this person said, "The governors better be careful because this is a guy who will withhold money to -- especially blue state governors or governors he doesn't like, if they continue to push back against him." And there we have it, that's exactly what he did today.

COOPER: Kaitlan, I mean, it seems to me the president can basically just -- using his usual playbook, pick an enemy, distract from what is going on, certainly, with the pandemic, the death toll, and just focus on something which he's focused on before, which is conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

You know, he still is claiming there were, you know, millions of people voting illegally in California, millions of illegal immigrants voting against him and voting for Hillary Clinton.

COLLINS; Yes, these are two of the tactics you see the president use often when something that he doesn't like happens. He threatens to withhold funding or he says whatever is happening is illegal.

He did both of those today when it comes to Michigan. Though later when he was pressed and when the White House press secretary was pressed, which funding is he considering withholding, the president did not answer, neither did the press secretary.

And he even said, you know, he doesn't think he's going to have to withhold funding after all. And they tried to craft this excuse that he was actually just sending a message to the Office of Management and budget director who the press secretary said and acknowledged the president had seen today.

So why would he need to tweet to send that message? Of course, withholding funding is another thing the president has threatened before when it comes to sanctuary cities, when it comes to N.A.T.O. You've seen it time and time again, not just with Michigan today. And

the question, it's -- we're even seeing it right now with the W.H.O., the World Health Organization play out. Often times the President doesn't always follow through on those threats, so --



COLLINS: -- that's the question here, you know, is this just a political tactic? Is he being serious and he's going to withhold funding? They're a state going through the pandemic pretty severely right now, and the White House wasn't able to really give a lot of details on that today.

COOPER: And, Dana, he clearly sees a political advantage in going after Michigan, repeatedly the governor of Michigan as well.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. I mean it makes you think as a political observer, particularly of the map, whether or not he's doing this because he thinks Michigan is a goner or because this is the best way in that critical state, what's critical for him in 2016, he wouldn't be president without winning Michigan in a very surprise victory there.

Or is it because he sees the protests, he understands that the only way that he has a chance there is to get the base out, plus whatever voters are out there that might have come his way or at least stayed home four years ago and might be interested in voting for him if they don't like the governor.

I mean, those are the calculations that go through his mind. But I really do think, having said that, in this particular case it's a two- for. The governor has made him mad because she is on TV a lot criticizing him and the administration. In many ways she has a point because she was looking for important materials to fight the pandemic that she didn't get at the beginning.

And then number two, she's in the running to be the potential running mate for Joe Biden. And, look, I mean, she is a woman of power, and we have seen the president go after women of power, especially in the other party.

COOPER: Yes, Kaitlan Collins, and Dana Bash, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

There is breaking news about the pandemic and its effect on college athletics. The NCAA now says division one athletes in football and basketball can be begin training on campus being the 1st of June.

Straight ahead I'll talk with the one and only Charles Barkley about that and about a live celebrity golf match and charity event for COVID relief, that's coming this weekend, and why it matters. We'll talk to Charles in a moment.


COOPER: Breaking news from the world of college sports tonight. The NCAA says that college athletics -- college athletes in football and basketball, the division one schools, can begin voluntary training on campus beginning June 1st. As for professional sports, as we all know, there have been almost no live television -- televised sporting events since the shutdown began in early March.

But for fans of both golf and celebrity-watching, this coming Sunday is going to change that.

Turner Sports is going to televise a high-stakes golf game, with $10 million promised to COVID-19 relief. We should mention that Turner Sports, like CNN, both are owned by AT&T.

And among the commentators, NBA legend Charles Barkley, who joins me now.

Charles, you know, I'm not a huge sports fan, but I am a huge Charles Barkley fan. So, first of all, what's your reaction to the breaking news that division one football and basketball student athletes can participate in on-campus voluntary athletics beginning June 1st? Other sports decisions are expected soon. Are you surprised? Do you think it's safe?

CHARLES BARKLEY, NBA HALL OF FAMER: I don't think it's safe, number one. But those are the two money-making sports. I don't think it matters as much for basketball, because basketball doesn't start until November. But, obviously, football is -- you know, starts in August.

I just want these kids to be safe. But you know, Anderson, hey, listen, it's a lot of money at stake, but I do not think it's safe. I would not want my kid, until we know more about what can happen -- we need to wait until we're closer to a treatment or a vaccine.

But, listen, money is going to run this thing, and that's really unfortunate.

COOPER: What about -- you know, I talked to the baseball commissioner last Thursday, Sanjay and I. You know, he was talking about getting the season going this summer, no fans in attendance.

What about playing with no fans? Is that -- is that feasible? Is it -- does it -- I mean, what's that like for players?

BARKLEY: Well, I've never had the pleasure -- but -- the misfortune, but I think I would stop playing the sport with no fans. I mean, it would -- I mean, the fans are -- they're important. They're significant.

They work two ways. Sometimes they give you energy that you never knew you had, and sometimes, somebody -- some of the fans on the road are riding you so hard, that makes you rise up. So I would never want to play a sporting event without fans, personally. COOPER: I want to turn to this weekend's event. It's going to be the

second time the match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson has been played.

How did the rematch, with the addition of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, how did that come about?

BARKLEY: Well, you know, we're trying to do something. You know, this, it's really -- you know, doctors and these first responders, they are true heroes, with teachers, firemen and policemen.

But, man, we really miss sports. You know, it's been really weird not having sports, because, with the -- you know, Anderson, without sports, all we have to do is talk about reality, and obviously reality right now is not great for a lot of people, especially -- especially, my thoughts and prayers to the people in the hospitality field.

But it's going to be awesome. You have got four of the greatest athletes in the history of sports. I mean, obviously, I think Tiger, personally, is the greatest athlete -- greatest golfer who ever lived. You've got Phil Mickelson, who is one of the -- in my opinion, one of the five to ten greatest golfers ever. You've got Tom Brady, who is the GOAT in football; and you've got Peyton, who is one of three or four best quarterbacks ever.

They're going to raise a lot of -- $10 million is a lot of money for charity. It's going to be a lot of fun, and I cannot wait.

COOPER: And, now, are you going to get involved? Like, I sense this is something that you might actually get involved with somehow.

Like, I can't see you just standing there commenting, I feel like you somehow are going to get roped into this. I feel like side bets are going to be made, there's going to be side competitions going on.

BARKLEY: Well, no, actually, you know, I work with --

COOPER: Oh no, did we lose him?


BARKLEY: -- a hole of golf, and if I make the 18th hole, Anderson, if I make bogey -- bogey -- they're going to give $200,000 to my favorite charity. But the reason I call them cheap - if I make birdie, they should donate $500,000 to a charity. If I make par, they should donate $300,000 to the charity.

So, call your bosses up (INAUDIBLE), and tell them quit being cheap. But I'm going to at least try to make a bogey. And I'm going to get $200,000 to my favorite charity. I'm going to give it to two food banks.

But I got to make bogey. So I'm a little - obviously I'm nervous, because I'm not the best golfer in the world. But I'm guaranteeing you that I'm going to make bogey. COOPER: All right. Well, it's - well, you've got a couple of days to practice on this. The $10 million donation. It's being spread out a bunch - among different charities working on the COVID crisis. You said you're - the money you're going to raise is going to go to food banks.

It's incredible, you know, what we have seen, the need from food banks. I mean, there are some incredible food banks out there. And they are - you know, they're - they have events, and you get 10,000 people coming to them.

You get cars lining up for miles and miles and miles. It's just stunning to see in - in this country what is going on economically - the devastation.

BARKLEY: Well, you know, it's unfortunate that when we have something like a pandemic, and it really doesn't take that much. America is by far and away the greatest place in the world. But the - the gap between the rich and the poor is really, really sad. And it's obviously magnified now.

You know, you look at the hospitality industry. They've been closed for two months. But they also got two problems coming out. Number one, people are not going to have money to go to restaurants. And also people are going to be afraid to congregate, Anderson.

So the hospitality - they're going to be really struggling. And a lot of them are not ever going to come back. And a lot of those people work - they're the ones who are at those food banks, and we've got to do everything we can to help them.

COOPER: Yes. It's also incredible to me - and I saw you talking about Don and van about this on - on their special. Just how - as you say, this is like an x-ray machine that shows the inequalities and - and injustice as it existed before. It just magnifies it, and it really kind of show - lays things bare.

You know, I'm - I'm in New York City. And to see all of us who are able to stay home are only able to do that because there are folks, who are not getting paid a lot of money, working in grocery stores, risking their lives, delivering packages, risking their lives, picking up the trash, risking their lives.

I mean, it just - to me, it just is such a reminder of who really is essential in this society, and it isn't me. It's people out there who are actually doing stuff that makes all of us able to work from home.

BARKLEY: Well, you know, Anderson, if you look at the numbers. Black people and brown people, they make up over 50 percent - they don't make up 50 percent of the country, but make up 50 percent of the COVID infections and viruses in this country.


BARKLEY: And there's a couple of reasons why. Black people and brown people - they can't social distance. A lot of them - like, growing up, I lived in a - a two bedroom condo, with a mother, grandmother - excuse me, in the projects with a mother, grandmother and three brothers. We can't social distance.

And also, you got these people, who are amazing, who are working in these meat packing factories. They have to go to work, because they live paycheck to paycheck. And also, you got the people - you know, one of the reasons - the people who work in these hotels. That's the one thing that scares me about - you know, they - "We're all going to try to play sports."

They said they're going to keep the players in a bubble. But what about the maids? The maids aren't going to be stuck in a bubble. They're going to go home.

You've got people who work - who work in room service. They're going to go home. That's why I'm really concerned about the season starting again. Because I would hate to see any of my players, or anybody in their family get sick. And obviously, I don't want anything worse than that.

COOPER: Also the inequities that have existed in health care for people of color, for black Americans, Hispanic Americans, which have been long - I mean, that's, you know, well reported out, well researched. How patients are treated differently based on, you know, doctors' perception of them, even inherent biases.

It's just - it's startling to see all that stuff just amplified in - in this. And I just hope that, you know, whenever this dissipates, that we don't just kind of go back to the way things were before. That we take, you know, what we have seen, and act accordingly moving forward. I mean, at least in how we treat people, and who we view as essential in this society.


BARKLEY: Well, the one thing we got to do we've -- obviously we've got to work on the economic model between the rich and the poor -- but the one thing we've got to do when this thing gets better we've got to make sure everyone got health care.

You know, President Obama tried to do Obamacare. President Trump has striked a lot of it down but the one thing we've got to do -- like I say, we've got a lot of work to do economically, but the one thing I hope for out of this, man, we've got to make sure everybody, rich, poor, black, white, Jewish, Hispanic, everybody got great health care.

COOPER: You know, one of the things -- you know, like you said I don't know much about sports. I feel like I don't really know who the characters are but so -- like I feel like if I just took a couple of weeks and studied who everybody is playing I would get more into it.

But it amazes me how it really -- it does unite people and it brings people together. And if you can -- you know, if you love sports you can talk about it with anybody, you can talk it to anybody anywhere you go, and I feel like that's really -- I think people are just crying out for something that brings us all together. I mean, I'm going to watch this golf tournament. I don't even know anything about golf.

BARKLEY: You know, (inaudible) not and I said it earlier, I've always said unless you're a policeman, fireman, teacher doctor, somebody in the armed services, those are like real jobs, important and significant.

But let me tell you something, I want to add the first responders and nurses to that right away also. But let me tell you something, I've learned something through this pandemic. Man, we need sports. Are they the most important thing in the world? Not even close, but the one thing they do, they take your mind off of all the other crap that's going on in the world. And you just need a break.

COOPER: Right.

BARKLEY: You just -- you -- whether it's golf, whether it's NASCAR, whether it's hockey, whether it's tennis, you just need to get away from reality, man. Because I don't mean this in a bad way, reality sucks for a lot of people.

COOPER: Well, also to see somebody doing something just physically extraordinary and intellectually extraordinary on a court or, you know, on, you know, whatever the grass is where people play golf, it's just -- it's a cool thing to be part of and to feel like you are part of. This when is this -- this is Sunday 3:00 p.m. eastern?

BARKLEY: 3 p.m. eastern.

COOPER: And it's happening -- isn't it happening on Tiger Woods home course?

BARKLEY: It's happening on Tiger Woods home course, so he -- but listen the second -- so the first nine they're playing best ball. The second nine they're playing alternate shots. But like I say, just to watch four of the best athletes in the history of civilization play golf -


BARKLEY: --and first of all just in the history to get a chance to see me play golf everybody should tune in just for the hilarity of it.

COOPER: Charles Barkley, I will definitely be watching. I love talking to you always. Thank you very much.

BARKLEY: Hey, thanks for having me and congratulations on being a father.

COOPER: Thank you very much. And I said to you this during the break, thank you for you sent me a lovely text message and I apologize for not - I've been a little overwhelmed and behind, but it really meant a lot to me to hear from you. Thank you.

You can watch the match Sunday beginning 3 p.m. eastern and it will be simulcast on TNT, tbs, truTV and HLN. And finally, tonight as we try to every night, we want to remember and honor more people who have lost their lives in this pandemic. Margit and Harvey Feldman, they were married for 66 years. Harvey was born and raised in Brooklyn. Margit was from Hungary. She lived through the holocaust. Most of her family including her parents didn't survive that.

Margit was sent to a series of concentration camps including Auschwitz before she was liberated in 1945. Two years after she moved to New York and that's where she met Harvey. They married in 1953. They had two kids. With Harvey's help and support Margit dedicated her life to teaching young people about those who died during the holocaust.

After Margit and Harvey were infected with coronavirus, Margit was the first to pass. Harvey lasted only another few weeks without her. Margit Feldman was 90 years old and Harvey Feldman was 91 years old.

Rene Johnson wasn't able to be with his family when he died from the coronavirus. He had five children and they had all gathered together every day outside his hospital window in New Hampshire. They wanted him to know that they were there. They made signs for their dad telling him they loved him and they missed him. They also made signs for the nurses who were caring for him.

Every day the nurses at the Catholic medical center they would look for the family and would always wave to them from inside. After Rene passed away the nurses posted two signs from the window where they usually waved. The signs read, "He's at peace, we are so sorry."

Rene's family said they found great comfort in these nurses knowing their dad was well-taken care of up until the end. Their dad was 65 years old.

That's it for us. The new continues. I'm going to hand over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME". Chris?