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More Than Half of U.S. States Seeing Spike in Cases; Florida Sets New Daily Record With 9,585 New COVID-19 Cases; Source: Russian Intelligence Officers Offered Cash Rewards to Taliban Fighters to Kill U.S. and U.K Troops in Afghanistan. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 27, 2020 - 19:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of "The Situation Room". It's clear the coronavirus pandemic is far from over. Worldwide, the number of total confirmed coronavirus cases is now nearing a grim milestone of 10 million with almost half a million people dead. And here in the United States, the total number of confirmed cases just surpassed 2.5 million and more than 125,000 Americans have died from the virus.

Reopening plans have been underway for weeks, but now very alarming and dangerous spikes in coronavirus cases are throwing those plans into disarray and painting an extremely grim picture of what could be ahead in the weeks and months. The U.S. reported 45,000 new infections just yesterday. That's a new daily record here in the United States. Over the last week, more than half the country, 32 states, have seen a rise in new cases, and at least five states hit new peaks including Florida, the potential new epicenter of the pandemic here in the United States, the state reporting its highest one day increase in cases today.

Governor Ron DeSantis now forced to pause the states reopen plans. And Florida is by no means alone. At least 12 states are pausing or rolling back reopening measures. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott desperately trying to reverse course, shutting down bars once again after admitting he reopened too soon. And out in California COVID hospitalization surged by almost one-third in the past two weeks, there is ICU beds reaching new highs threatening to overwhelm the states hospitals.

In Arizona the Governor warns the state is now on pause due to the resurgence of the virus. With the warning signs stacking up across the nation, Vice President Mike Pence used the first coronavirus task force briefing in two months to paint a different picture.


MICHAEL PENCE, 48TH U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: We have made truly remarkable progress in moving our nation forward. We've all seen the encouraging news as we open up America again. As we stand here today all 50 states and territories across this country are opening up safely and responsibly. We're in a much stronger place. The truth is we did slow the spread. We flattened the curve, we...


BLITZER: All right. Let's begin in Florida right now where the state reached an alarming milestone despite what the Vice President said yesterday at that briefing. Health officials reporting 9,585 new - new coronavirus cases in what is now the highest single day reporting since the start of the pandemic. CNN's Natasha Chen is joining us from Pensacola Beach right now. Despite these skyrocketing numbers in Florida and elsewhere where you are in Florida, it's still there is no statewide mandate to wear a face mask. Tell us more. What's the latest?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. There is no statewide mandate, but there are local jurisdictions, certain counties, where they've decided to create their own mandate locally. And that includes the Pensacola Mayor that has mandated that employees and patrons inside businesses must wear masks. But Pensacola's a different jurisdiction than where I'm standing now. This is Pensacola Beach, and so here when we walk into restaurants, they are sometimes not wearing masks at all.

Certainly the people who are there to frequent the business are not. And we talked to some bar owners as well because one piece of action that the state has done as of yesterday is shut down the standalone bars. And those bars now are only able to sell to go drinks. I asked one of the bar owners what he thought about the recent rapid spike in cases.


CHEN: Are you surprised to see the numbers come back up like this?

SEAMAS HUNT, CO-OWNER, PADDY O'LEARY'S IRISH PUB: It's not 100% surprising. I mean, obviously there's a lot more testing going on. The place is flocked with tourists here, so seeing the numbers go up is not a shocker. I mean, some days it is a shocker when you see how many it's gone up by.


CHEN: I talked to a local resident who told me it is not at all shocking to her that the numbers have gotten to this level across the state. She feels that this - that the state re-opened too early and that she constantly sees out-of-state license plates coming into town. There are some businesses in this area that have voluntarily scaled back either closing their dining room inside or cancelling large events, cancelling live music, things that would draw a large crowd. But as far as we saw on the Pensacola Beach website as of yesterday, the July 4th fireworks are still going on so locals are a bit concerned that a lot of people are going to come out for that, Wolf.

BLITZER: They certainly are and they should be deeply, deeply concerned with what's going on. Natasha, we'll get back to you. Thank you very much. South Florida clearly one of the most active COVID areas in Florida, the Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is joining us right now. Mayor Suarez thanks so much for joining us. And to just get an update as you know the Miami-Dade County Mayor announced that the beaches there will be shutting down for the 4th of July weekend. Bottom line, did Florida simply reopen too quickly?


MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ, 34TH MAYOR OF MIAMI: You know, a lot of people believe that Florida reopened too quickly. I think the other issue is people just didn't behave. Once the reopening occurred, there were some very, very strict rules that people were supposed to adhere to and they just didn't follow them. I think there was a sentiment that this thing was over and I think people began congregating quickly and in large groups.

Social distancing was something that we didn't see happening. And that's what caused us to implement a mask in public rule. You know, the way I look at it is it's no different from wearing your seat belt when you're driving. It's an important thing to do. It's a responsible thing to do when you're driving. It doesn't mean it's going to save you from having an accident but it's going to increase chances of survival. And so for us we think it's the prudent thing to do, it's a right thing to do and we're going to fine you if you don't do it.

BLITZER: Cause as the officials try to mitigate these rising - very sad rising numbers. We're probably seeing results of actions were taken two or three weeks ago. Takes time for this virus to go through the process and start showing results. How much worse, Mayor, do you expect it to get where you are specifically in Miami?

SUAREZ: We're hoping it doesn't get any worse. You know, the numbers that we've seen, for example, two days ago we hit the high water mark of 1,500 cases. That's three times higher than what we had in late March or early April at 500 cases. The State of Florida hit 9,600 cases which is 7 times greater than their high water mark of 1,300. So, I think Florida as a State, opened bars. We never opened bars in the city of Miami. And the fact that we're closing our beaches now and we're requiring masks and we're now considering stiffer penalties for businesses that don't comply with the rules are things that we're hoping are going to help us to reverse this horrible trend that we're seeing over the last couple of weeks.

BLITZER: The Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has repeatedly refused to issue a state wide order to wear a mask. But in Miami other South Florida communities, local governments like yours, for example, as you correctly point out are requiring face masks for people out in public. A lot of folks aren't necessarily all that happy with that. I want to play for you how some West Palm Beach residents are reacting to all this, this week. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to throw God's wonderful breathing system out the door. You're all turning your backs on it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really have many question marks about your degrees and what you really know. I'm sorry, Ma'am, but I don't think you are worthy of your credentials, and I would ask suggestively that you go back to school and get educated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You disgrace me. Do you know why? You did not listen to we the people, you made your decision.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope every one of you gets voted out who votes for a mask today, shame on you for voting a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are against not masks but mandatory masks. We believe that it is our body, our choice.


BLITZER: So, what do you think, Mayor? Why is there such strong reaction to something so simple that potentially could save hundreds and thousands of lives in the coming weeks and months according to the centers for disease control and prevention?

SUAREZ: Yes, you know, it's hard for me to understand. I mean, frankly, I understand that people don't want their civil liberties infringed upon. I understand people want to make decisions they think are in their best interest. The best analogy that I come up with is we require people to wear seat belts. And it's something we enforce. Our police officers can ticket you if you're not wearing a seat belt. You know, in theory, you should - those same people would say would argue why we shouldn't have to wear a seat belt and we should be able to risk our own life but that doesn't make sense.

And I think it's something that's not difficult to do. You know all the studies show, like you said, Wolf, the epidemiologists that we talked to, about our decisions that we talked to, the experts at the health department that we talked to all recommend that everyone wear a mask to prevent further spread of the virus. So, making it mandatory is no different than making a seat belt mandatory or not being able to use a cell phone while you're driving, things that, you know, are easily things that are targeting safety. I just don't understand what the big deal is.

BLITZER: You mentioned, Mayor that you're ready to enforce mask wearing with fines in Miami. Tell us about the potential penalties.


SUAREZ: So, the first instance, it's a warning. The second one is a $50 fine. Third one is $150. Fourth one is $500. And if you still continue to violate, then you can actually be arrested and it's a second degree or third degree misdemeanor, punishable to 60 days in jail. Obviously we are hoping it never gets to that. And yes, the truth is we implemented a stay-at-home order, the vast majority of Miami people followed the order. And that's why we saw, that we're able to flatten the curve and that we went from inclining 35 cases per day to declining 14 cases per day. That was the steepest downward slope and we're hoping to get back there soon. BLITZER: Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami, good luck to you, good luck to everyone in Miami. We'll stay in very close touch. Thanks so much for joining us.

SUAREZ: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Now we're going to get back to the coronavirus coverage here in our "Special Situation Room" in a moment. We also have some breaking news that we're following Russian Intelligence Officers offering cash rewards to the Taliban in

Afghanistan to kill, to kill American troops. We're going to have details on that. We've got new information. Stay with us. You're in "The Situation Room".



BLITZER: We'll get back to our special coronavirus coverage here in "The Situation Room" in just a few moments, but there is more breaking news that we're following right now. We're learning more about an alleged Russian plot to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan by offering cash rewards to the Taliban. Let's go straight to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh he is joining us from London. Tell our viewer what you're learning.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Startling development here, Wolf, in Afghanistan. A European Intelligence Official I spoke to has told me that they think that Russian Intelligence Officials working for Russian Military Intelligence offered cash rewards, incentive basically to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan to kill American or other coalition soldiers. Now, they don't really know what the Russian Intelligence Officer's motivation for this alleged scheme necessarily was, but they are clear that it did result in coalition casualties in their assessment.

They don't know the date of those. They weren't specifying the numbers or the nature or the nationality of those casualties, but it is a remarkable accusation to certainly here. And it begs the question of why would Russia do this. In fact the European Intelligence Officials said to me they were bewildered by quite Russia - why Russia would choose plot a scheme like this. And Taliban himself indeed have come forward and denied any involvement saying they didn't need foreigners to tell them how to run things insurgency. And the Russian and the Washington has used the #BlameRussia in its denial here as well. A story first reported by "The New York Times".

The White House, Wolf, has come forward and not really disputed this claim, what they called the alleged Russian Intelligence Bounty here, but they have disputed "The New York Times" claim that President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were in fact briefed on this alleged Russian plot. They say that was not true, which frankly in itself in a statement raises the question why wouldn't you tell the President of the United States of something quite as remarkable as this if you had confidence in it. The European Intelligent (inaudible) says specific on one detail with me as well that the particular part of the Russian GRU the Russian Military Intelligence armed behind this is code unit 29155. And they're also accused by European Intelligent Officials of being behind the attack on the script of father and daughter in Salisbury U.K. in early 2018, another prominent text in Europe.

A remarkable twist here, essentially Russia trying to formant the Taliban to attack Americans, something frankly the Taliban would do on the best of days. But it comes when the Trump administration is desperate to end the war in Afghanistan. They try the peace deal, it seems to be faltering they're planning to withdraw yet more troops from there too. Maybe Russia is motivation bewildering frankly anyone I talk to. Maybe Russia is trying to boost casualties to get the Americans out faster or maybe there's another game at stake here. But startling accusations certainly in this still America's longest war, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just to be precise that "The New York Times" reporting that the president and other Top National Security Officials were briefed about this alleged Russian plot back in March. The White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany denying that insisting that neither the President nor the Vice President were briefed on this. So Nick Paton Walsh doing excellent reporting for us as usual. Thank you very, very much. Coming up with more half of the states now seeing rising coronavirus cases, I'll speak with Former President of the American Medical Association Dr. Patrice Harris. She's standing by live. Lots of questions on all the breaking news. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: The numbers of people are here in the United States now counted as having COVID-19 stands at 2.5 million confirmed cases. And as bad as that sounds and as frightening as this map looks, a brand new CDC survey released today says the true number of cases here in the United States could be up to 24 times greater than reported, meaning the real number of Americans who have had or have coronavirus could be closer to 60 million. I want to bring in Dr. Patrice Harris, she's the Former President of the American Medical Association, gave up that position two weeks ago. Dr. Harris, as usual, thank you so much for joining us. Do you think this pandemic is so much worse than any of us suspected? Could it actually be worse by a factor of 10 or even 24?

DR. PATRICE HARRIS, FORMER PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: Well, certainly those numbers and that statement from Dr. Redfield are very sobering and these numbers are very alarming. And it's not just the increase in testing. We want to make sure we make that clear because we see the percent positive increasing. We see the number of hospitalizations increasing. And Wolf, as you know, in some areas, ICU capacity is at or near 100%. So, it is absolutely appropriate for some jurisdictions to put a pause on loosening restrictions. And in some cases we are going to have to go back to more restrictions. We need to do all that we can to stop the spread of this virus.

BLITZER: We certainly do. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert during the White House coronavirus briefing admitted some states simply opened way too soon, and now we're seeing the results with higher numbers of cases. I want you to listen to this.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Everything from maybe opening a little bit too early on some to opening at the right time but not actually following the steps in an orderly fashion to actually trying to follow the steps in an orderly fashion but the citizenry did not feel that they wanted to do that for a number of reasons.


BLITZER: Dr. Fauci added it may be time to drop back a few yards to think about the original reopening guidelines. Do you agree? And if you do, what's the remedy right now?

HARRIS: I absolutely agree with Dr. Fauci. We warned and all public health experts and physicians warned about reopening prematurely because what is happening today is the very thing that we were worried about. And so, again, it is going to require, again, certainly a pause. We may need to increase restrictions. But Wolf, the regulations are one thing. Individual behavior is another. And it is very frustrating and unfortunate that wearing masks and doing some of these other issues have become so political. It's not political. It's science. And we need everyone to wear masks, watch their distancing, and wash their hands. It really boils down to that.

BLITZER: Yes. It wouldn't be political if the President simply said what you're saying right now, but he's clearly refusing to do so. Is it too late, Doctor, to reverse course?

HARRIS: It is never too late, but clearly we lost time early on. At this point, we need to do all that we can right now. There will be time to do an after action review. It's never too late to do what we can. We need to make sure we ramp up testing. Dr. Fauci and others talked about a new tactic, that pool testing. So, it's not too late, but we have a lot of catching up to do.

BLITZER: The Vice President Mike Pence in that same coronavirus task force briefing said its encouraging news that half of the new cases are people under the age of 35. Why is the data moving down to younger people? Is that really as encouraging as the Vice President says since they could easily, even if they're asymptomatic or have limited symptoms, they can easily pass on this virus to their moms and dads, their grandparents and others they may simply encounter at a bar or any place else?

HARRIS: For me and I can tell you for the physicians across this country, this is not encouraging news. I think it just, again, confirms that there is no particular age group that is immune, and we are seeing hospitalizations and deaths in those younger still. Certainly, we're seeing the worst outcomes in those who are over 65 and over 85. But again, those who are younger end up spreading the virus to their parents and to their grandparents. So, I don't see any encouraging news here, but hopefully the news does encourage us to do what we can, do what we know what works to limit the spread of the virus.

BLITZER: Dr. Patrice Harris who until two weeks ago was the President of the American Medical Association. She's still on the board. Dr. Harris thanks for all the really important good work that you do. We're always grateful for having you here in "The Situation Room".

HARRIS: Thank you Wolf. I appreciate it.

BLITZER: Up next, while the President continues to down play the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, we are now learning of the truly extraordinary measures the White House is taking to try to protect the President. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: The Trump campaign is now postponing some of Vice President Mike Pence's campaign events in Arizona and Florida, two states which have now seen record surges in new coronavirus cases in recent days.

Meantime, President Trump is seemingly trying to move on from the pandemic by not attending the coronavirus briefing, refusing to wear a mask in public, and holding massive campaign rallies where social distancing is simply not required, masks are not required.

But in reality, measures to protect the President, we're learning, from the virus have actually scaled up and they've scaled up rather dramatically.

Let's go to our White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy, what are you learning about these extraordinary efforts now, and totally understandable, to protect the President who is 74 years old from coronavirus?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you said, Wolf, the President has consistently downplayed the severity of this coronavirus since the beginning of this pandemic. And he has encouraged this economic reopening even amid the surges that we are seeing nationwide.

But as far as the President himself is concerned, Wolf, we've been hold that the President has actually been concerned about his potential to be exposed to this virus. And in step with that, the protective measures surrounding him as far as coronavirus is concerned have actually stepped up over the last several weeks.

Every venue that the President enters is inspected for potential areas of contagion by security and medical teams, the bathrooms that he is going to be using at certain events are scrubbed and sanitized, every individual who comes into contact with the President is tested. That is in contrast, Wolf, with the fact that when you used to walk

into the White House here, everybody used to get at least a temperature check and then an additional test if you're in contact with the President. Those temperature checks are no longer being performed.

As you mentioned, Wolf, the President himself has really encouraged bringing people together, hosting that campaign rally last week, bringing several thousand people together without any social distancing to that campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

There are now, Wolf, though, some signs at least of potential change. And that comes with what you mentioned about the Vice President. He is still going to Texas, Florida and Arizona next week, but the campaign events that he was scheduled to have in person there in Florida and Arizona, those have, indeed, been scrubbed -- Wolf.


BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Jeremy, the President was supposed to be in New Jersey this weekend at his country club, playing golf. He didn't go. He said he didn't go because he wants to engage in law and order, protecting statues and monuments, stuff like that.

He spent at least a chunk of the day at his golf club out in suburban Virginia, right?

DIAMOND: He did, Wolf. The President did go golfing today. We actually -- one of our photojournalists captured a video of the President golfing at his golf club in Virginia. And what we've also seen from the President today, Wolf, is a lot of tweets, particularly these posters that look like wanted posters seeking out information about individuals who were involved in trying to topple that statue right across from the White House in Lafayette Square.

So, that is the issue that the President is focused on. We have not, though, Wolf, heard from the President very much today at all really about the coronavirus pandemic, and we know, Wolf, that in recent days the President has instead focused on trying to explain away the surges that we are seeing of coronavirus case counts across the country, claiming falsely, Wolf, that this is about increased testing around the country.

But what we do know, Wolf, is that while testing has increased, what we have also seen increase is the percentage of positive cases. And tell that this is not just about testing, this is about a resurgence of this virus -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that is really important. All right, Jeremy Diamond, standby. We'll be getting back to you. I know you're working your sources.

We have an important quick programming note for our viewers. Join CNN's Jake Tapper for a new CNN special report "Trump and the Law after Impeachment." It will air tomorrow night 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN right after our special SITUATION ROOM tomorrow night. We will be back tomorrow night from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Just ahead, American travelers could soon be barred from traveling to parts of Europe after deep concerns over a spike in coronavirus cases here in the United States. We're going to live to Paris. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: When the European Union decides to reopen its borders in the coming days, it is now unlikely -- unlikely -- that American travelers will be welcome in those European countries.

Diplomats say the European Union has agreed in principle on a wide ranging travel ban based on coronavirus case numbers in several particular countries. Let's go to Cyril Vanier joining us live from Paris right now.

Cyril, so what's the latest on these potential travel restrictions?

CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, each European member state is spending the weekend drafting its own list of countries that they're going to label safe or unsafe. Those are countries whose travelers, they are either going to allow to travel into the European Union starting Wednesday or ban from traveling into the E.U.

Over the last few days, the European Ambassadors have been going back and forth, but they finally established a list of criteria, and as you were saying, the most important among them is an epidemiological one.

And our sources have told us, look, the conversation starts and ends with only one thing, one criteria, and that is the health of European countries.

We want to allow travelers into the European Union coming from countries where the virus is as prevalent or less prevalent than it currently is in the European Union.

And that is why our sources have also told us that the United States is unlikely to make that list. That final call has not been made. That's likely to happen on Monday.

But if you look at the numbers, Europe has managed to curve the outbreak. The U.S., right now, cases are surging in many states.

And so it is highly unlikely, I just don't see a scenario, Wolf, where the U.S. would make it on the list of safe countries.

BLITZER: So, all those Americans, the U.S. will be basically in the same category as Russia and Brazil. Americans will be barred from visiting E.U. countries.

I understand that Canada and Australia and other countries, they'll be allowed to go ahead and visit. So, Americans are not going to be able to go for business. Students who want to spend the semester in Europe, Cyril, they might not be able to go either, is that right?

VANIER: Yes, that's absolutely right. But I do want to say that this list is going to be continuously revised based on the criteria. So, the criteria is this.

Europe is going to look at the number of new coronavirus cases in each individual country on a two-week period relative to population size. They're going to keep looking at this and they are going to update their list every two weeks, meaning the countries can be taken off the list or countries could be added to the list.

So, if the virus situation changes in the U.S., then the U.S. may make its way on to the list over time.

BLITZER: Certainly understandable what the European Union wants to do given the number of cases here in the United States although by all accounts it's a slap at the U.S. for failing to deliver right now.

I'm sure the President is going to be very upset at what the E.U. is doing. Cyril, thank you very much for that update, for that report. Cyril Vanier in Paris.

Coming up, the C.D.C. has just reported that African-Americans are being hospitalized at a much, much higher rate because of the coronavirus and this is happening in minority communities already disproportionately feeling the enormous economic impact of the pandemic.

The former President of the NAACP standing by to join us. We'll discuss when we come back.



BLITZER: Joe Biden, the presumptive presidential nominee offered up a simple message earlier this afternoon. He tweeted, "Wear a mask," along with a photo showing him wearing one.

It's a stark contrast to the message coming from President Trump who has repeatedly refused to wear a mask publicly during the coronavirus pandemic.


BLITZER: And now, as the numbers rise nationwide, and reopening plans are paused across the country, President Trump's poll numbers are taking a serious hit.

Biden has built a solid lead in several national polls and in "The New York Times" latest poll, he is ahead in several key states that President Trump carried back in 2016.

Our senior political commentator, David Axelrod is joining us right now. So David, what do you make of these poll numbers? DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, Wolf, if you

had told me four months ago that either candidate of either party was going to be ahead by double digits at this point in the campaign, I would have tell you, you were crazy.

This is a closely divided country. We haven't -- I don't believe there was ever a time in the two races that I was involved in, where Barack Obama had a double digit lead over his opponents.

So this is really unusual. The bottom has kind of fallen out on Donald Trump and a lot of it has to do with the way he has handled the two major crises we've seen: the COVID-19 crisis and then the aftermath of the George Floyd shooting.

People are very down on the way he has handled those. His ratings are in the low 30s for those and it has dragged him down in every other way. You've mentioned the three states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Michigan, those were the states he narrowly won to win the White House in 2016.

He is behind, according to "The New York Times" poll, by double digits in each of those states, losing in Florida, losing in North Carolina, losing in Arizona, a state that Democrats haven't won since 1996. And he's losing groups that he carried four years ago Independents, suburban voters by a wide margin. College educated white voters and senior citizens, which voters over 65 went to Trump in 2016.

Now, you have to wonder whether these messages about COVID are hurting him with seniors who are disproportionately vulnerable to that virus. But he has got a serious hole that he has dug and he appears to be determined to keep on digging on this issue of masks.

BLITZER: But you were a key political adviser to President Obama, you helped him win the election twice. There are still several months to go between now and November, does the President have time to regroup and actually go ahead and win?

AXELROD: Yes, no, he absolutely does. Look, four months ago, we also didn't foresee the crises that we faced, and there are always intervening events. In the next four months, there would likely be other intervening events and perhaps he will handle them in a way that helps him come back.

But he seems determined, Wolf, to play base politics on all of these issues, and that is not working for him right now. The masks, on the monument, on his handling of the police issue. He is getting bad marks on these, but he seems determined to-- he thinks that's the prescription. You excite your base and the base is enough to win.

Well, these polling numbers don't look that way. So he is going to have to make a real change in direction from where he is right now, I think to come back. I don't think he can keep his foot on the pedal and play base politics and win the election this way.

And one other point I'd make. Joe Biden is a very inconvenient opponent for him because he is not a threatening figure to lot of those voters that Trump hopes to excite and scare about the Democratic alternative, so he has a lot of work to do if he is going to take Biden down at this point. Biden looks fairly secure in some of these polls.

BLITZER: But Biden has faced, as you know, some criticism that he hasn't been visible enough through the crisis, for example, he targeted the President in a speech on Thursday. Do you think he needs to be more aggressive right now?

AXELROD: Well, you know, when this first started, my thought was, if the President handled this well, it could be a tremendous boom to his candidacy and it would be harmful to Biden, who doesn't have an official position, was consigned to his house and wasn't really able to go out and campaign.

As it has turned out, all of this exposure for Trump has been really problematic for him. And Biden, by being relatively low key has actually benefitted because the spotlight has stayed on Trump.

Now, eventually, Biden have to be more active because the convention will happen. The fall will demand more of him. But we really don't know how much it is going to be possible given the nature of COVID-19 and now this uptick in COVID-19 around the country.

So, he is a peculiarly good position for a guy who can't go out and campaign very much, primary because the President seems intent on damaging himself.


BLITZER: And we do know there will be three presidential debates that will be coming up before the election, obviously they will be very, very important.

David Axelrod, as usual, thanks very much.

It's a fact that minorities are being hit much harder by coronavirus than white people. According to statistics for the Centers for Disease Control, if you're a non-Hispanic, black person, Native American or Alaska native, you are five times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than a non-Hispanic white person.

Hispanic and Latino persons are roughly four times likelier to be hospitalized.

Ben Jealous is the former President of the NAACP. He is now the President of People for the American Way. Ben, thanks very much for joining us.

It's not news as we all know that public health emergencies hit racial and ethnic minority populations a lot harder. You're in Baltimore. First of all, what are you seeing in communities of color where you are?

BEN JEALOUS, FORMER PRESIDENT, NAACP: People are devastated. They are devastated because we're dying at a crazy rate. I mean, my peers, black folks, 35 to 54 are ten times more likely to die than their white peers.

I talked to a buddy the other day, he lost five friends in one week. Some of the guys were poor, some of the guys were rich. One of them died in Trenton, one of them died on Martha's Vineyard.

What they all had in common? They were all black men between about 48 and 53.

And I talked to a Bishop, 16 members of one family, dead. And that's -- so it's tough, and on top of that, massive joblessness and massive just pain.

I raised one million dollars to help folks in Baltimore in this crisis where food boxes, people are driving up clearly had jobs until a month or two ago. An absolute crisis.

BLITZER: It's a serious issue. And since mid-March, more than 45 million Americans have lost their jobs and have formally officially applied for unemployment and a disproportionate number of them African-Americans and Hispanics. What do you make, Ben, of the Trump administration's efforts right now to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, right in the middle of a global pandemic that could put millions more at risk of not being able to afford health insurance?

JEALOUS: It is the most morally bankrupt thing I've ever seen a President do. We are in a middle of a pandemic. People across the country are dying, not just black and brown folks, let's be clear. We're at a higher rate, but Americans of all colors are dying and what does he do? He goes to the U.S. Supreme Court and asks them to kill the Affordable Care Act.

Now, flashback to 2016, he said, he will replace it -- he had no intention to back up and now we see it. He is trying to kill the Affordable Care Act and he literally has nothing to replace it with.

BLITZER: We're also seeing a social justice movement here in America over the past several weeks. A lot of protesters are part of a community that's already at risk. How do you make a historical impact right now while still protecting the most vulnerable in our communities?

JEALOUS: You know, I think that when historians look at back on this moment, they will call these the COVID-era uprisings. When you look at these sorts of uprisings throughout U.S. history, what determines whether or not an act of police brutality turns into a blaze of anger is typically tensions around joblessness, unemployment and housing.

And in this moment, it's about healthcare as well, and we've got to absolutely deal with transforming public safety but we must go deeper and deal with the fundamental inequalities in our society.

And what the President is trying to do in killing the ACA will only add to that in ways that will devastate 23 million people in our country.

BLITZER: Yes, very quickly, before I let you go, Ben, on Friday, as you know, the President signed an Executive Order to protect monuments including Confederate monuments here in the United States and now the Interior Secretary is threatening to withhold funds from state and local governments, unless they protect those monuments. What's your reaction to that?

JEALOUS: We need folks to do across the country what we did here in Maryland two years ago and just take them down. These statues stand for slavery and hatred. They are a relic of a failed propaganda campaign in the early part of 20th Century that was trying to frankly paint a new picture about what the south was all about.

That movement failed.