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CNN'S AMANPOUR

United States in Post-COVID World; Trump and Biden in 2020 Presidential Election; Houses of Worship Reopening; Amy Walter, National Editor, Cook Political Report, is Interviewed About the 2020 Presidential Election. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired May 22, 2020 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to the program, everyone. Here's what's coming up.

Will the United States still be the sole superpower in a post-COVID world? As the presidential election approaches, we get the latest on what vision

will win with Cook Political Report, Amy Walter.

Then collective trauma and the coronavirus, Psychologist Jack Saul on the need for collective healing.

Plus, inequality's devastating toll on health. CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, Helene D. Gayle, talks to our Michel Martin.

And finally, the defiant and joyful sounds of Angelique Kidjo.

Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour working from home in London.

As the world starts to reemerge after the coronavirus pandemic so too will a new world order. While the virus started in China, Beijing has used this

crisis to project its soft power, global diplomacy and a strong desire to be the next power in chief. Not to be out done Europe is making efforts to

rise from this crisis even more united as a bloc that can hold its own with China and the United States.

The French and German leaders pitching an unprecedented 500-billion-euro recovery fund for the E.U.'s hardest hit countries sending a strong signal,

at a time when America, the current undisputed heavyweight of the world, seems to want nothing to do with the mantle of global leadership

highlighted by its response to this pandemic.

The 2020 presidential election is pivotal and it pits Trump, of course, against Biden, and two vastly different visions for the future. So, in the

midst of a pandemic and with six months to go, what is the current state of the race?

Amy Walter, national editor for The Cook Political Report joins me now to try to break this down. Amy Walter, welcome to the program.

And let me just start by asking you about something that happened just before we went on the air, and that President Trump came out in what looked

like a kind of a rushed statement taking no questions and just announcing that he is ordering all houses of worship across faiths to open by this

weekend. What do you make of that? Why now?

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well, Christiane, as you know what this president really does like to do is to stir pots and

specifically on cultural issues and social issues. This is what keeps his base motivated, this is what keeps him motivated quite frankly. And we have

been seeing, you know, these protests pop up in a number of states. At the same time, we do know that most Americans still feel very anxious, they're

not quite ready for their states to open up completely.

But the president also knows that he wants to make the election not so much a referendum on how he's handling this crisis but a referendum on the

cultural issues surrounding the way we react to a crisis like this. So, pitting essentially people who want to go to church versus I heard him say,

you know, if we can have marijuana shops open and liquor stores open, well, certainly we could have churches open. Ignoring, of course, the fact that

the whole situation whether you're opening a grocery store or liquor store or whatever does require social distancing and there are still rules around

it. But alas --

AMANPOUR: OK. So, Amy, I'm going to play a little bit of what he said and we'll talk about it just after it. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Today I'm identifying houses of worship, churches, synagogue and mosques as essential places that provide essential

services. Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential. But if left out churches and other houses of worship, it's not

right. So, I'm correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Amy, he also went on to say something that I did -- I think raised a lot of eyebrows. He said the governors may not like it, some of

them, they may call me but they're not going to get me to change my mind. Essentially, he is saying what I said go on this -- goes on this. What is

the constitutional prerogative on this? Do the governors have the say in their states or is it a presidential executive order?

WALTER: It's absolutely the governors who have the say so here. And, Christiane, I've been talking to a bunch of mayors and other local

officials around the country and I've been speaking to church officials as well. And one I spoke with who really is desperate to open his church is

also very concerned about making sure that he's able to do it in a way that keeps his congregation safe.

So, even a -- if the governors of the states said today, you can absolutely open, many of the people who are in charge of making those decisions, that

-- who run these houses of worship, are saying they're still very nervous about being able to do she this in a safe way. But no, the president of the

United States does not deem one states can do one thing over what the health officials and that governor say.

AMANPOUR: So, let's move on then to how this might play into the election campaign. I want to -- I mean, obviously, President Trump has the bully

pulpit as they call it. He has absolute control of the air waves. He is dominant in the public space. Joe Biden, as everybody says, is in his

basement. It is a really bad look and it's a bad statement. Nonetheless, nonetheless, it looks like the average of polls show that Biden still has a

fairly decent lead. Can you break down where we are in terms of polling right now between these two candidates?

WALTER: That's right. If you look at the average of polling now, Joe Biden is ahead somewhere by about five points nationally. Remember Hillary

Clinton won the national popular vote by about two points. So, it's twice as big as the lead that Hillary Clinton had on election day. He's leading

by a very narrow margin in many of these battle ground states or the two candidates are essentially within the margin of error. And the map itself

is looking -- it is a little tilted toward Biden right now. There are more states that we consider that are safely Democratic that are safely

Republican.

And when it comes to the most important states, those battleground states, those ones that we know are very, very close, in order to win the electoral

college Joe Biden's going to need to win little bit less than 40 percent of those states. But the burden really is on Donald Trump. He needs to win

more than two-thirds of those states. So, he can't afford to lose places like Florida or North Carolina or -- well, or Wisconsin, actually, I would

put in that category.

AMANPOUR: So, let me ask you because everybody assumed and the president himself declared that he would be running on his record and that would be

the economic record mostly and the economy was going gangbusters before this. Now, you have tens of millions of Americans unemployed, you have a

really deep recession, as they have said, to depression era levels predicted.

What do you think he will run on? Some of the Republican analysts have said he might be able to revive or the economy might bounce back. But otherwise,

it might be running against Obama, as weird as that sound, or running against China, which you could see the outlines of that happening. What do

you think?

WALTER: Well, Christiane, even when the economy was going gangbusters, the president wasn't always talking about the economy, he was still talking

about immigration and the border wall and caravans and sanctuary cities and a whole bunch of other things that really weren't about the good economy.

And good economy wasn't necessarily benefiting him.

His overall job approval ratings aren't much better today or worse today than they were a year ago when the economy was setting all kinds of

records. So, the reality is that the economy in and of itself was never I don't think enough alone to elect Donald Trump and it is not necessarily

the issue that is going to sink Donald Trump either.

The biggest challenge that the president has and has always had is being disciplined enough to get that message through. If you remember the 2018

elections, Republicans who were on the ballot that year, senators, members of Congress, they were desperate for the president to talk about the

economy, to talk up the economy and make the race a referendum on the economy. That wasn't necessarily what the president wanted to do.

The culture war piece, the immigration piece, attacking Democrats was much more interesting and it's the stuff he took to rallies and on his Twitter

feed. And it was Democrats who were very organized and disciplined and made the race not just a referendum on Donald Trump but on health care.

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So, I kind of expected to see this going forward. The president is going to try at some point to talk about he's the one who can bring the economy

back. He has the know-how. And in fact, polls do show that he still is seen positively on his handling of the economy. But voters have to make a choice

here. And time and time again, what they seem to be saying is, despite the fact that they thought the economy was good, they weren't giving their vote

to Donald Trump, not all of them were giving their vote to Donald Trump.

And when the economy is bad, they may not blame Donald Trump for the crash of the economy, but they're not necessarily looking to give him credit if

the economy comes back. It is really much more a referendum on who he is than what he's doing.

AMANPOUR: And just -- I mentioned Obama, because as you know the whole Obama-Gate, you know, President Trump talking a lot about Obama over the

last few days and weeks and some people thought that was going to be the election strategy. But in terms of, you know, crossover votes we heard a

lot about Obama/Trump voters in 2016. Is there a chance we'll see, you know, Trump/Biden voters in 2020?

WALTER: Absolutely. That is exactly what the Biden campaign is hoping, is that, look, Joe Biden doesn't need to win back all of those voters. Where

Democrats have had success since Obama left office is with a new group of voters, these suburban -- usually suburban affluent white voters who had

been voting for Republicans like John McCain and Mitt Romney, but who voted for Hillary Clinton. Who voted for a Democrat for Congress in 2018 who say

that they're voting for Joe Biden this year.

So, what Joe Biden needs to do is not necessarily win them all back but get some of the margin back. And in a state like Pennsylvania, that means just,

you know, instead of getting blown out as Hillary Clinton did in some of these smaller counties, you know, where she took 25 percent or 35 percent

of the vote, he just takes 30 percent or 40 percent. Put enough of those small gains together, they add up pretty quickly.

AMANPOUR: And Jared Kushner, you know, the president's son-in-law and chief adviser, raised a lot of sort of hackles and a lot of attention when

he's suggested -- I mean, he didn't say no to potentially the election not happening, he said that's the plan. It should happen on schedule, but I

can't tell you right now.

Is that even in the atmosphere? In the water anyway? Is anybody seriously thinking that this election might not happen on time?

WALTER: No. In the constitution and the president or the president's son- in-law cannot declare it, you know, not happening. But here's the -- something that is really important to understand about this election. Right

now, a lot of people still don't feel safe or they tell pollsters they don't feel safe with the idea of actually going to a polling place. And

that is a very big deal as we start thinking about it. It's only six months from now, voters actually voting.

Now, most of the states that are battleground states, those states that are going to determine who the president is already have the vote by mail

systems. So, it's already legal to vote by mail. But a lot of those states, especially in the Midwest, don't have robust systems, in other words very

few people have been voting by mail.

And now, they're going to have to be able to turn around a vote by mail program in a pretty short amount of time. That takes a lot of money. It

takes infrastructure. You know, for some -- especially some of these smaller counties, they're not going to have the technology, they're not

going to have the workers needed to do this.

So, this sort of sets up for what I think is going to be the bigger challenge in 2020, which is making sure that voters who want to cast their

ballots are able to do that, that those votes are able to be counted, that people feel confident that their ballot's going to make it from their home

to the mailbox and to the voting place.

AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, Trump himself, the president, discussed this in Michigan yesterday. Here's what he said about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We're not going to go to voting by mail. Voting by mail is wrought with fraud and abuse and people don't get their ballots that happen to be

in a certain district, whether it's Republican or Democrat. Thousands of ballots are sent out but they don't happen to get them. So, people are

calling, where's my ballot. They call it a panic. Where is it? Where is it? The election's coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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AMANPOUR: Well, is that raising a strawman, Amy? I mean, is there evidence of that kind of distrust in the voting system, in the vote by mail system?

Is there any such evidence that would make that true what the president said?

WALTER: No. There's not any evidence either that there's fraud or mistrust with the system. People really like the idea of being able to vote

remotely. Feel it's very safe to be able to do so.

Look, Wisconsin, they had a primary election in April, and at the last minute it turned into a mostly vote by mail situation. It was pretty messy

and Wisconsin really struggled to be able to count the ballots, to get the ballots out. But again, we have six months for the states to prepare to

make this better.

What I think the president's really trying to do isn't necessarily to dissuade people from voting by mail or dissuade Republicans from voting by

mail, his campaigns, other Republican campaigns are actively encouraging people to vote by mail, getting applications to those voters. What he is

trying to do is just to sow distrust in the system itself. That there are certain people who are vote by mail -- who will receive a ballot by mail

and they are not valid voters.

We heard a lot about this, the president in 2016 after that election, illegal, immigrants had been voting. People who shouldn't be getting

ballots were getting ballots. In other words, again, going back to the us versus them. Good people will do right by this process but there are all

the bad people who are going to hurt the system.

So, his campaign will be working very actively to ensure that their voters turn in vote by mail ballots, but at the same time undermining the sanctity

of it. And in that sense, really sowing distrust in the final vote count.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they're going to reopen or how does it work?

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR: So, we - - and I have checked all 50 states have on their website what their new cases were over the last 24 or 48 hours. We are trying to get every state

to do that by community, by ZIP code. So -- because I really firmly believe a knowledgeable community can really make judgments for themselves.

I think each one of the leaders in the faith community should be in touch with their local health departments so that they can communicate to their

congregates. Certainly, people that have significant comorbidities, we want them protected. I know the houses of worship want to protect them. And so,

really ensuring that maybe items -- maybe they cannot go this week if there's high number of COVID cases. Maybe they wait another week. But there

is a way to social distance, like you are here, in places of worship.

And I think what we're trying to say with the CDC guidance is there's a way for us to work together to have social distancing and safety for people so

that we decrease the amount of exposure that anyone would have to an asymptomatic. And I say it that way because I know all of you and all of

Americans, if they didn't feel well, they wouldn't go to church that day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Birx?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One more for Dr. Birx.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Dr. Birx, can you comment on the latest study on hydroxychloroquine? There's a Lancet study that suggests, again, that the

drug could cause heart problems and even increased mortality. The president obviously said that he's been taking it. What is your recommendation? What

is your recommendation on using that drug as a prophylactic?

BIRX: Well, first, this -- I think the FDA has been very clear on their website about their concerns about hydroxychloroquine, particularly when

it's combined with (INAUDIBLE). And I think that you see that in the study and I think the study, although it is open label and it is -- I tell you

what I take home from the Lancet study and I hope everyone does here in addition to what you just commented on, it clearly shows the comorbidity

that puts individuals at more risk.

And I think it's within of our clearest study because there were so many tens of thousands of individuals involved that the doctors clearly

annotated who had heart disease and who had obesity. And you can see dramatically the increase risk for that. There is still control trials

going on both for prophylaxis and preexposure prophylaxis and as well as controlled trials looking at in a hospital setting how these drugs do. And

I think those are still pending. But I hope everyone looks at those comorbidities.

[14:20:00]

And for all of our millennials out there, they get data like this. Look at that. Go through and see if your parents or your grandparents have any of

those things and make sure you're helping protect them. I'm worried about people in my generation because we're very social at times and we have a

habit of forgetting social distancing or forgetting that glasses and when you're eating, you can't eat in a mask. So, even if you're far enough

apart, you have to watch every utensil. Everything you touch.

I really am asking our great generation of millennials to get some YouTube videos about how to do picnics outside with your friends and still protect

everyone and still ensure that there's no co-contamination of food and utensils. I think there's a way to do it but I want it explained in a

YouTube video.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you very much, Dr. Birx. I know you need to get back to work. So, thank you very much. You can

do a follow-up with me and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Dr. Birx, is it possible to do a quick follow up?

MCENANY: OK. You can go ahead. But before I start my portion of the briefing, there were just a few things I wanted to note for you all.

Pursuant to those -- some of those very encouraging graphs we saw where the states move from red and orange to green, and we saw the United States

increasingly become green, and it's encouraging to see that America's reopening alongside that with home-based -- data from home-base noting that

two-thirds of America's small businesses are opening and open stable studies that Americans are now starting to dine out again.

Another home-based study, 67 percent of the local food and drink businesses are open. Apple is saying Americans are driving and walking at near normal

levels. And Google mobility data reflects the same. So, it's encouraging to see America start to reopen and the great work President Trump has done for

the faith community going into this weekend.

We have a First Amendment. It is very important that we protect that in these churches, these synagogues, these mosques, they are essential and

President Trump underscored that.

And finally, before getting started, I wanted to note that the president, as you all are well aware, donates his salary to various initiatives and

parts across the federal government. And this quarter, he will be donating his salary to HHS, Health and Human Services, to develop new therapies for

treating and preventing COVID-19 so that we can safely reopen. Here is the check, amounted to $100,000. That will go directly from President Trump and

his paycheck that he does not take but rather donates it to various noble initiatives including -- in honor of this COVID this time and those that

passed and the studies underway, he's be donating it to HHS.

And with that, I will take questions from you all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kayleigh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kayleigh?

MCENANY: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kayleigh, a couple of questions to follow up on the president's announcement. First, just to clarify, he came out and said, I'm

calling upon governors to allow churches and places of worship to open up right now. Dr. Birx just said in areas where they have high cases of COVID-

19, maybe they should think about waiting a week. So, which is it and why the mix messaging?

MCENANY: That's up to the governors. As it is said in our guidance, we know that while many types of gatherings are important for civic and

economic wellbeing, religious worship has particularly profound significance to communities and individuals including as a right protected

by the First Amendment.

The president wants to see these communities open. Dr. Birx was integral to making these guidelines and lay out a pretty clear path for faith

communities the reopen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But, Kayleigh, the president said he's going to override the governors. Under what authority would he do that? And to your

point, he said several weeks ago, this is all up to the governors.

MCENANY: Well, I think you're posing hypothetical and I think we can all hope that we see governors --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, he said he would override the governors.

MCENANY: You are posing a hypothetical though. You're assuming that governors are going to could keep churches shut down and keep mosques shut

down and keep synagogues shut down. That is a hypothetical question. And we will leave it to these faith-based communities to reopen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president (INAUDIBLE) governors don't listen to him, he's going to override their authority.

MCENANY: We'll leave it to faith communities to reopen and, Christine (ph), I think we can all hope that this Sunday, people are allowed to pray

to their gods across this country. That's a good thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What authority would he use to override governors?

MCENANY: And I would note there's detailed guidance in here about the way that you can clean your facilities, promote social distance. So, this is

something that we should all look at and be thankful that we are encouraging these faith communities to reopen and do so in a safe way. And

we'll leave it to parishes to open in a safe fashion. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What authority is the president referencing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kayleigh, does the White House now support these churches defying governors' orders and opening up?

MCENANY: The president has been very clear. He wants churches to reopen. He wants them to do it safely. He wants them to do in accordance with our

guidance. It's laid out very details. It's posted now. So, you can all take a look through it. And he wants to see all of those churches open in a safe

fashion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But if a governor doesn't allow that, does the White House support churches defying these executive orders?

MCENANY: The president has been very clear. He wants to see churches reopen in accordance with his guidelines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, the answer is yes?

MCENANY: I just gave you can answer. The president would like churches to reopen.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to follow up to what Christine (ph) asked.

MCENANY: And do it in accordance with the guidelines.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What specific provision of federal law allows the president to override a governor's --

MCENANY: The president will strongly encourage every governor to allow their churches to reopen. And boy, it's interesting to be in a room that

desperately wants to seem to see these churches and houses of worships stay closed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. But the president said --

MCENANY: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kayleigh, I object to that. I mean, I go to church and I'm dying to go back to church. The question that we're asking you and

would like to have asked the president and Dr. Birx is, is it safe? And if it is not safe, is the president trying to encourage that or does the

president agree with Dr. Birx that people should wait?

MCENANY: Jeff (ph), it is safe to reopen your churches and if you do so in accordance with the guidelines, which are laid out detail very stringent

detail here about promoting hygiene practices, and there are five bullet points and cloth faced coverings.

If social distancing is not possible, it's recommended intensifying cleanings, promoting social distance. We have laid them out meticulously.

So, I am thankful that we have a president that celebrates the First Amendment, the same amendment that gives you all the ability to ask me

questions is there to have the freedom of worship. So, imams and pastors can go to their churches, can go to their places of worship and can

celebrate what is a First Amendment right in this country, which is to pray to your god and to practice your faith.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we celebrate that too. I just want to follow up by saying we celebrate that too.

MCENANY: And so, we should be thankful that there are guidelines to allow us to reengage in that behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we're not asking you if the president and our is allowing Americans to pray. That's not the question that we're asking.

MCENANY: To gather in their places of worship, to attend church services, to pray together. And the president has laid out a clear path, the CDC has

laid out a clear path for this to take place, for our First Amendment to be exercised in a way that is safe and robust. And that is something that is a

good thing and I'm thankful that we have a president who celebrates the First Amendment and helps it to be celebrated in its fullest and most

robust way possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Kayleigh. I'd like to switch gears asking about President Obama. We had a -- does the president -- we had an

interesting article from Joe Pollock this morning. And I would like to ask you if the president has considered pardoning President Obama for illegally

wiretapping on some powers, illegally (INAUDIBLE) and some potential crimes out there? Has he considered what?

MCENANY: So, I have not spoken to the president about that. But who I did speak to about President Obama and unmasking Michael Flynn were the men and

women in this room. I haven't spoken to him on that specific point. I have spoken to him about the matter generally. And I laid out a series of

questions that any good journalist would want to answer about why people were on masks and all sorts of questions.

And I just wanted to follow up with you guys on that. Did anyone take it upon themselves to pose any questions about Michael Flynn and unmasking

President Obama's spokesperson? Oh, not a single journalist has posed that question. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Michael Flynn's name wasn't --

MCENANY: So, I would like to lay out a series of questions and perhaps if I write them out in slide formal maybe we're visual learners and you guys

will follow up with journalistic curiosity.

So, number one, why did the Obama administration use opposition research funded by a political organization and filled with foreign dirt to surveil

members of the Trump campaign? Number two, why was Lieutenant General Michael Flynn unmasked? Not by the intel community entirely but by --

[14:29:00]

END