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Dr. Anthony Fauci Warns Coronavirus Cases Could Hit 100,000 A Day; Top Republicans Urging Everyone To Wear Masks, Leaving the President Increasingly Isolated; South Dakota Governor: No Social Distancing Planned For Trump's Mount Rushmore Fireworks Event; Interview With Mayor Francis Suarez (R), Miami, FL; Source Says White House Was Warned About Potential Russian Bounties For Killing U.S. Troops In Early 2019. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 30, 2020 - 23:00   ET



LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Man, Chris, just when I thought you couldn't get any cooler. I'm now picturing you lifting some weights to public enemy.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: That was above for me tonight.

COATES: During the hall of fame. I'm just saying.

CUOMO: Chuck D knows me. Chuck D knows me.

COATES: Chuck D knows you and, now, cites your grandmother, as well. I don't know. Who knew? Who knew this was all happening? I got to stick around on a Tuesday, at that? Wow, Chris Cuomo.

CUOMO: I'll tell you. I've always respected Chuck a ton. Growing up in the city, Chuck D was a big Knicks fan. And there was a myth that he copied Marv Albert, who used to do play by play for the Knicks, his -- his cadence as part of his rap. But one of the cleanest rappers. Obviously, much more than just music, he's a social activist.

And, look, you can like his song, not like his song, based on your politics. But the urgency of music in a moment is indicative of the size of a moment. And it will be interesting to see who follows P.E.'s footsteps.

COATES: I think so. And, first of all, for the record, probably, when you were playing that music, there was no bigger Knicks fan than me. I had a Lara Starks (ph) hat and jersey. Thank you very much, number three. So, I'm just saying. I'll put that out there for you for a second, Chris.

CUOMO: Listen. You are new blood.

COATES: And I know, I know the big game, you missed it, but I'm just letting you know. I'm just letting you know.

CUOMO: You are new blood. OK?

COATES: All right.

CUOMO: This isn't an accident. All right. I've been around a lot longer than you. For those of you who are here for the gravy days with Starks. I've been watching that team. They've been bad for a long time, and I've been here for all of it.

COATES: Well, look, I won't let the camera zoom in. I'll let you have the gray hair today. But you are absolutely right when you say this is a time and the idea of music being able to soundtrack what is happening. I mean, you see the protests on the streets as sort of a rallying cry. You hear about what's going on. You have people talking about the yes men.

You have people who are pointing guns at people on the street for peaceful protests and otherwise. You see what's happening on Capitol Hill. I mean, these are the soundtracks of our lives right now, and I will be curious to see, you know, what everyone sings as a chorus, right?

CUOMO: Soundtrack is the right word and a beautiful analogy to what the chorus will be. Well done.

COATES: Wm that's why they have albums around that time, right. For you, there you go.

CUOMO: You don't know that.

COATES: Look. This is CNN TONIGHT. We'll stop messing with Chris Cuomo right now. I'm Laura Coates. I'm in for Don Lemon. Before he stops calling me an upgrade here. You know, the coronavirus is surging. And the nation's top experts warn, unfortunately, things could get a lot worse. I mean, cases on the rise in more and more states. I think we're now up to 36 and, frankly, only two of the 50 states are even down, right now.

You've got Texas hitting its highest daily number of new cases. They've got almost 7,000 reported, just today. And Dr. Anthony Fauci says that America should be prepared for things to get a whole lot worse.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALERGY AND INFECTOUS DISEASE: We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day, if this does not turn around. And so, I am very concerned.


COATES: A 100,000 a day? I can't even imagine that number. I mean, here we are, right now, we're all very concerned, as he's saying. And that, as the president's own experts are -- are reiterating the very guidelines that he is ignoring. Especially, the one that's as clear as the nose on his face. You know the one. It's simple. Three words. Wear a mask.


DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Please, please, please, wear a face covering when you go out in public. It is not an inconvenience. It is not a suppression of your freedom. It, actually, is a vehicle to achieve our goals.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL: It is critical that we all take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of covid-19, and embrace the universal use of face coverings.


COATES: The surgeon general was pleading for people to just wear a mask. And members of the president's own party are even trying, and I mean desperately trying, to convince him to do the right thing.


SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): I've suggested that the president, occasionally, wear a mask. Even though, in most cases, it's not necessary for him to do so. The president has plenty of admirers. They would follow his lead.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wearing a mask is just a good idea. And it will, we know, from experience, will slow the spread of the coronavirus.


COATES: Well, of course, they'd follow the lead. I mean, he's called the leader of the free world, right? I mean, even the president's ride-or-die stalwarts are trying to send him a message. It's like, somehow, we're in Gotham city, and there is a bat signal that's going up. But it's saying, please, Mr. President, just wear a mask.



SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I think they work. And I said especially if I wear a mask, and it opens up baseball, concerts, NFL football, I'd rather wear the mask and go to the game to protect grandma, grandpa, mom, and dad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We must have no stigma, none, about wearing masks.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): For my home state, I do believe in wearing masks. Wearing the mask is the best opportunity for us to keep this economy open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that if the president wore one, it would just set a good example. He'd be a good role model.

MAGA should now stand for Masks Are Great Again.


COATES: They're trying so hard to get through to him. You see where this is all playing. It just does not seem to be working.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has said he has no problem with masks. That he encourages people to make whatever decision is best for their safety, and to follow what their local jurisdictions say. CDC guidelines are still recommended but not required. And the president is the most tested man in America. It's his decision whether to wear a mask.


COATES: The most informed man in America? Wow. Well, you know, we don't really need, truth be told, for the press secretary to say what she just said. I mean, the president, himself, has told us. And by the way, he's done it in his own words, multiple times. Precisely, how he feels about wearing that mask.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, Prime Ministers, dictators, kings, queens. I don't know. Somehow, I don't see it for myself.


COATES: Well, how about for the people of the United States of America? I mean, you've even got former vice president Joe Biden, who's calling out the president's, how can you describe as, woefully inadequate coronavirus response.


JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 2020 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It seems like our wartime president surrendered. Waved the white flag. What white flag? We left the battlefield.


COATES: And the president? He's just, seemingly, holed up behind closed doors at the White House. Apparently, just rage tweeting. All the while, Americans continue to die. And he's blaming China for the virus. He's giving you a window into what he's really thinking with an all-caps tweet. Proclaiming himself the lone warrior.

And he's repeating that old favorite that he last tweeted. Not at all coincidentally, by the way. Shortly after the vote -- the vote in the House to impeach him, quote, in reality, they're not after me. They're after you. I'm just in the way.

The president, yet again, playing the victim. And frankly, ignoring who the real victims are. And by the victims, I mean the more than 127,000 Americans who have lost their lives to this virus. Let alone, the ones who are battling from the affliction. And the loved ones who are still trying to process all that is happening, at this pace. He's ignoring his own supporters. And all the Republicans, all those Republicans who've finally seemed to find religion on that simple task of wearing a mask. Just ignoring reality. And the president stands alone.

Lot to talk about today with CNN White House correspondent, John Harwood and Dr. Jonathan Reiner. You know, Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Program at George Washington University Hospital. Pleasure to have both of you here. John, if I can start with you. I mean, you see that we've got now top Republicans, including Vice President Pence. They've all seen the light. And they're now talking about the wisdom of wearing a mask.

This epiphany now, that everyone seems to be having, except for the president of the United States. John, why do you think the president is not, at least, acknowledging the epiphany, let alone getting on board?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Laura, it's a bizarre situation. And all those Republicans are talking to the president, as if he were a child. This is irrational by the president. It is self- defeating. It counters his objectives of getting the economy back in shape, of resolving the public health crisis, and winning votes for his re-election.


The only conclusion you can draw, since there's no more scientific debate. It's unanimous, even within his own government, his own aides. The only conclusion you can draw is that the president is psychologically incapacitated from doing this. He thinks, as in the byte you played, that it makes him look bad, personally. He thinks it makes him look bad politically because it suggests that all is not well with his fight against the coronavirus.

He thinks the masks are a sign of disapproval of him. It would be an admission that he'd been wrong before. Whatever all those reasons are, most of them have been uttered by the president, himself. They make no sense, and he simply is unable to do what smart, rational people working for him are begging and pleading for Americans to do. And he's hurting himself by the process.

COATES: Including, by the way, his own vice president. And of course, the irony, Dr. Reiner, in all this, is that when he talks about not seeing himself wear a mask with these other foreign leaders. Guess what? They're likely wearing a mask. It's not as if the pandemic just hit the United States of America. But, you know, Dr. Fauci is saying that he wouldn't be surprised if the U.S. saw 100,000 new cases per day. And of course, if we don't have real leadership, I mean, is it even possible, doc, for the country to reverse course?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, DIRECTOR OF CARDIAC CATHETERIZATION LABORATORY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: We can, absolutely, turn this ship around. The people of this country have accomplished much greater feats than this. We can do this and it's not hard. We need to get the entire population to wear a mask when you go out in public. It's not a big sacrifice. You know, our parents and our grandparents sacrificed a lot more. So that's easy to do.

We need to get the states to continue to increase the amount of testing they do. Particularly, in the south, which -- where the states have lagged substantially behind the northeast in testing. And we have the ability to do this. We, absolutely, have the ability to do this. We just don't have the political leadership to do this.

Here's the ironic thing. Roll the clock back three months. If, at the end of March, the president of the United States had come out wearing a mask, and had said, this is your patriotic duty. Wear a mask. And he was wearing, let's say, a MAGA mask. He probably would have sold millions of them. We would be, right now, where Spain and Italy are. We would be almost done with this first wave. And the president would be way higher in the polls.

That's the irony of this. He would be lauded for his management of this pandemic. Instead, he banked on magical thinking. That the warm weather was going to make this go away. That hydroxychloroquine was a magic bullet. And he wished it away, and this is where we are.

COATES: And let's not forget, again, bringing the light, somehow, into the body, Dr. Reiner, as well. And of course, you know, one thing I think about, usually you would say hindsight is 2020 and we're too harsh on leadership who are trying to make these decisions. But we do know that it wasn't as if the United States was the first country to grapple with this, right?

I mean, the idea that we had the idea and the benefit of what other countries were going for -- going through, we could have learned from them as well. And you know, the president, as you know, Dr. Reiner, is actually headed to Mt. Rushmore for a Fourth of July celebration and the governor's saying that they're not going to enforce social distancing but they will provide masks. I mean, how risky is this sort of optional thing to be able to wear masks, if you feel like it?

REINER: This president seems to enact every policy that one would enact to propagate the virus. Right? He doubts -- he doubts the ability of masks to prevent the virus. He calls testing overrated. He brings together thousands of people in rallies and now at this Fourth of July gathering in South Dakota. Why would you bring together thousands of people during a pandemic? What is the benefit to the country? What is the benefit to the folks of South Dakota? And what is even the political benefit to him?

You know, maybe there's some ego tonic that he gets from it. Maybe his people, you know, are trying to get him out and try to boost his spirits. But what's going to happen is that this is going to send exactly the wrong message. I don't want people out in mass over the weekend celebrating the Fourth of July. I want them in their own backyards, grilling some hot dogs and watching the fireworks on television. That's your patriotic duty. That's what the leader of United States should be doing. And that's what the public should listen to. COATES: And instead, John, of course, as Doctor was talking about, we

have got a large event like this. Thousands of people. But it's not just an isolated example. I mean, it's the latest example, right, of the president downright ignoring the fact that we are in a pandemic right now. Not in the future. Right now. Trying to come out on the other side.


HARWOOD: The president barely talks about it anymore. He's trying to direct attention elsewhere. But even Vice President Pence, who heads the coronavirus task force. I was at a briefing with him today that was oddly disconnected from the crisis that we're now experiencing in the southwest.

Vice President Pence talked about what a great job we've done on testing. We've ramped up testing. We've got PPE. We've got better therapeutics. He was so proud of the job that we've done. And so we flattened the curve. And then, two weeks ago, we noticed an increase in cases. And now, we're on it. We're prepared for it.

Well, that's not really the point. The point is, your objective was to crush the virus, not to have a resurgence of the crisis. It is true that death rates are down. And we do have better therapeutics and better treatment regimens and all that. But we've got a real problem, right now, in the administration, which is in grave political difficulty, is not inclined to acknowledge the extent of the problem.

Even Governor Abbott of Texas had said, we reopened bars too quickly. Vice President Pence said, oh, yeah, some people think states reopened too quickly. That wasn't the problem. Well, if the governor of Texas was, I'll take him at his word.

COATES: John Harwood, Dr. Reiner, thank you so much for your time and of course tell people who are continuing to suffer, particularly black and brown populations in this country that we're in the clear. You know, the governor of Florida says he won't roll back his state's reopening. Even though Florida's reporting more than, get this, 6,000 cases, as of today. New cases. The mayor of Miami's going to weigh in with us, next.


COATES: The White House Coronavirus Task Force says it's paying very close attention to Florida. Which, we know, is one of the states where the cases of the coronavirus are just soaring. Florida is reporting more than 6,000 new cases, just today, alone. And they've got more than 38,000, since Friday.

And, of course, you've got the Governor Ron DeSantis, saying we're not going back closing things. Well, joining me now, is Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. He was just elected second Vice President for the conference of mayors. Good luck to you in that position. I know you will be great in that leadership role as well.

Mayor Suarez, I have to ask you. I mean, look, you've got cases in Florida. They are obviously surging. Your governor is still not making masks mandatory. And he is now claiming that it's not reopening that's doing this. It's not reopening that's driving these spikes. What do you say to that? Do you agree?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI, FL: Well, first of all, we made masks mandatory last week. We think it's similar to wearing a seatbelt. You are required to wear a seatbelt. If you don't wear it, you could lose your license. If you are driving without a license, you can go to jail. It's for your protection and the protection of others.

So, I definitely think that wearing a mask in public is something that we should have, not only in the city, but certainly across the state, given the numbers that we're seeing. Secondly, you know, I don't think you can discount the possibility of having to reclose or having to potentially re-impose a stay-at-home order. I'm not saying we want to do that, and I know that it's a measure of last resort, but you can't take that possibility off the table given the numbers that we are seeing.

And this numbers that we are seeing drive hospitalizations numbers to a level where a hospital cannot have the capacity to care for people, our death rate is going to go up. If our death rate goes up, like we've seen in other parts of the country like New York, or other parts of the world like Italy or Spain. You know, that's something that is going to create a health crisis that will lead to unacceptable consequences. So, you just can't take some of this options off the table.

COATES: You know, I'm glad you're talking about consequences, Mayor Suarez, because so often I think people believe, some everyone will conform to behavior, even in the absence of consequence. We know that's not the case.

And so, if someone's not wearing a mask in Miami, they could be fined up to $500. Of course, there's other things that happen as well. But given the large number of people who aren't complying as we're seeing, I mean, particularly young people, are you seeing any change, even with those consequences hanging over their heads.

SUAREZ: Yes. What we did was we created a consequence structure for people who are not wearing masks. If you're not wearing it the first time, you get a warning. Our police officers, actually, are going to have masks with them so they can actually give people masks that are not wearing them. The second instance is a $50 fine. Then, $150. Then, 500. Then, ultimately, you could be arrested. The same thing for businesses. If you are a business that's not complying with the rules.

Before, you would simply proffer a plan and the next day, you could be open for business. Now, we decided we're not just going to do that. We're going to penalize businesses that don't conform with the rules. And we're going to make it so that they have to close for 10 days the first time. 15 days, the second time. And 30 days, the third time. We want to make sure that businesses understand that it's not just about the noncompliance in that moment.

We want to make sure that they understand that there's a penalty associated with failing to comply because you're putting people's lives at risk. And as mayor, my job is to protect the residents of my city.

COATES: All of our lives depend on them getting the point. Mayor Francis Suarez, thank you. I want to bring in Dr. Peter Hotez as well, professor and Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Hello, Dr. Hotez. I'm glad that you're here. You're in Texas. A major hotspot, unfortunately. And the state, as we know, is setting yet another record of new cases today. And they've got nearly 7,000 reported.

And by the way, if you look at hospitalizations. That also -- look at that chart there. It's also following the same trend there. The upward trajectory of it. And you've got Governor Greg Abbott who is expanding the suspension of elective surgeries to try to -- in some ways, free up these hospital beds. Just tell me how bad is the situation right now in Texas?


DR. PETER HOTEZ, VACCINE RESEARCHER, DEAN OF THE NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE AT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes. You're absolutely right, Laura. Thanks for having me. We're having a crisis situation here in Texas. We just broke a record today, 7,000 new cases. To put that in perspective, Dr. Fauci warned that we could be up to 100,000 cases, daily, in the United States. Based on the size of the population of Texas, that's 10,000 cases a day. So we're almost at Dr. Fauci's apocalyptic warning, right here, in Texas if that continues.

So, we are seeing a steep rise. There's no evidence that the numbers are going to go down at all anytime soon. And we will see surges on intensive care units, including our Texas Medical Center, which is the world's largest medical center. And the bad news is, this is playing out now in Florida. It may be happening in Oklahoma and Arkansas and certainly in Arizona.

So we are seeing massive resurgence of covid-19, across the southern part of the United States. And we have to make a plan. We have to do something differently because -- because, without -- with things currently as they are, even with wearing masks, it may not be adequate, at this point. We may have to really do something quite dramatic.

COATES: Well, 19 states are thinking that their most dramatic move is to either stop or maybe roll back their reopenings. But will those interventions -- I mean, is that sort of the -- the best-case scenario? The best approach to this? If masks aren't the answer, is rolling back going to make some difference?

HOTEZ: You know, without having a vaccine, we're developing a vaccine at Texas children's in Baylor, hopefully by next year. But without a vaccine, it's like fighting an epidemic with one hand tied behind your back. And so we don't have a lot of tools. And there's another piece at stake here that not a lot of people are talking about and that is the low-income neighborhoods in these cities of Houston and Dallas and in -- in Phoenix and elsewhere across the south.

Those are the ones, I think, are getting hit the hardest. We don't -- I don't have the demographics, yet, to support that. But anecdotally, that's what I think the story is going to turn out to be. This is decimating low-income neighborhoods, people of color, African-American populations, Hispanic, Latin-X populations, Native American populations in the Arizona area. And that's why, in order to strike home that point, I'm calling this a potentially a humanitarian catastrophe unless we intervene now.

And we are still getting these issues coming out of the White House coronavirus task force. I think we have to make -- call an audible. Think about doing something differently. Maybe take this out of -- the control out of Washington, bring it to Atlanta and the CDC. And I'm proposing that because I just can't sit by. It's just too heartbreaking to see so many good people get hurt by this virus.

COATES: Dr. Hotez, I'm right along with you. Thank you for your time and for drawing the attention, particularly to low-income communities to continue to be devastated by covid-19.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

COATES: You know, sources are telling CNN that the White House was warned about Russia offering bounties. Actual bounties to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, dating way back, even to early 2019. So, what's with the White House's changing story about the Intel? Former Director of national intelligence, James Clapper, he's going to weigh in next.



COATES: Tonight, we're learning the White House received intelligence back in early 2019, early 2019, that Russians were offering bounties to have U.S. troops in Afghanistan killed. That's according to a source familiar with the situation.

And a U.S. official is telling CNN that the information about these Russian bounties was actually included in the president's daily briefing this past spring. But the White House has been denying all of it, that the president was ever briefed on this intelligence.

But today, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany insisted that, despite reports, the president does read these briefs.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president does read, and he also consumes intelligence verbally. This president, I'll tell you, is the most informed person on planet earth when it comes to the threats that we face.


COATES: So he does read them. Most informed. Well, joining me now, former Director of National Intelligence General James Clapper, who, by the way, Director Clapper, I miss seeing you in the green room at CNN, but I'll settle for this right now.



COATES: It's always nice to see you. I got to ask you. You know, when you hear this, does it make any sense to you that the White House would have had information on a plot to kill U.S. troops and the president just didn't know about it?

CLAPPER: No, Laura, it doesn't. And I know that much has been made -- and by the way, I don't have any inside baseball here, so I can't testify to the voracity of this reporting. But let's just assume for the sake of discussion, you know, this is valid.

Now, there are many occasions during the six and a half years I served as director of National Intelligence where I would have occasion either in the written product, the president's daily brief, or verbally in the Oval Office, inform the president about perishable and critical intelligence, particularly if it involved threats to or jeopardy to U.S. lives, particularly those in combat.


CLAPPER: And you don't have a lot of opportunity sometimes to validate it, verify it, and corroborate it. And I would always err on the side of telling the president but also caveating that by telling him what the sourcing was and what we were doing to try to either corroborate or disprove this information. But the import of it was such that I believe he should've known about it.

So, in this case, you know, this is bad news, both ways. If the president didn't know about it, well, that's bad. And if he did and didn't do anything about it, that's bad, too.

COATES: I mean --

CLAPPER: One other comment I would make, Laura, is that intelligence is inherently a communications process, involving the conveying of information either in writing or orally. And if the recipient of the information doesn't read or doesn't hear, it puts the Intelligence Community in a tough place.

COATES: Of course, you know, he has it now. So you would expect the president to be outraged or express it in some way. We're not seeing that right now, Director Clapper. But more importantly, I mean, Trump is not known, shall we say, to fully or maybe even regularly read these daily briefings.

He's briefed orally, as she just said. And you've done this hundreds of times. You've had and done hundreds of presidential daily briefings. Tell me a little bit about it for the audience. I mean, how long is it? How much does it change from day to day? What is this like that he would have to have consumed and been aware of?

CLAPPER: Well, I can only explain how it worked with President Obama, the president for whom I served as director of National Intelligence. And he was a faithful reader of the president's daily briefs, which normally would have anywhere from four to six or seven written articles which are heavily vetted and coordinated throughout the community.

And, by the way, included if the occasion called for it, dissent, President Obama wanted to know that. He often commented that, you know, if all of you in the Intelligence Community agreed all the time, I would be very suspicious.

And so, we would present a dissent and we would also make sure that we explain sourcing and what we were doing to try to improve sourcing, particularly on issues that were sensitive, but not fully -- we didn't have full information as we might like.

I think the White House moreover has conflated a process that's normally associated with long-range estimates, National Intelligence estimates, which take a long time, require coordination throughout the community.

When you're dealing with perishable, tactical information, particularly in a situation as dynamic as Afghanistan where troops' lives are in jeopardy, you don't bother with those long-range, estimative niceties. And I think the White House is trying to conflate that.

COATES: You know --

CLAPPER: In addition to the written product, we also, during our PDB time of maybe 10 or 15 minutes, brief on additional items in addition to those that were covered in the president's daily brief or provide updates after the cut-off of the president's daily brief.

COATES: Director Clapper, thank you for being here and explaining that because it's so important people understand.

If that is the protocol that has been for prior presidents and predecessors, this idea of conveying information, dissent, giving a comprehensive view of the risks, whether it's perishable or a long- range plan, I mean, what you're talking about are the very tools a president, a commander in chief, would need to make decisions that impact American lives.

And if he didn't have it or didn't take advantage of it or just was dismissive of it, Director Clapper, we're in a world of trouble. I appreciate your time, as always.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Laura. Thanks for having me.

COATES: We'll be right back.




COATES: Former Vice President Joe Biden is now slamming President Trump's handling of the coronavirus. And joining me now is national political reporter for The New York Times Astead Herndon. Astead, I'm glad that you're here.

You know, it's a funny thing, first of all, that we're about 125 days away from a presidential election and we don't have all the debates, we don't see what's going on, and we are hearing about this in this way. It's a really odd time. But I want to ask you. We know that President Trump refuses to wear a mask and here's Biden's thought on that.


JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That mask is not so much to protect me. It's if I have an undiagnosed -- I have it -- it's to protect you against me. It's to protect other people. And it's called patriotism.


COATES: I mean, look, frankly, wearing masks should not be a left, a right issue. Biden is saying, though, what Americans need to hear or is he? What do you think?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah. I think, certainly, Vice President Biden is reflecting what the public health experts are telling the country and increasingly what other Republicans are telling their own constituents about why they need to wear a mask, and what Republican governors in states like Texas and Georgia and Arizona and others are saying, that it needs to happen for those communities to not have an increase of coronavirus cases.


HERNDON: But, look here, the president has not done this because he has politicized mask wearing as another form of a referendum on this administration. You know, I was in Tulsa, at the president's rally last week, and I would ask people, what did you do with your mask? It is because workers were handing them out to every person who came in, but you wouldn't see people inside wearing them.

They said that they were immediately throwing them away. They kind of said it with pride because that was something that they saw as a referendum on the president himself. That's something that he has encouraged. And so, for his supporters, for the deepest core, even though that's not the reflective of where most of the country is, they see that kind of mask wearing as a liberal versus conservative issue.

COATES: I got to tell you, Astead, just hearing that people are throwing these masks away, it wasn't that many months ago, people were begging for PPE. Remember, they were begging for some form of mask, trying to get something.

I mean the idea of surgeon general even giving people tutorials about how to create their own masks is being thrown away as some sign of pride. That really makes my stomach turn when I hear that.

But also, I mean, President Trump has been attacking former Vice President Biden over, now, his mental fitness. And Biden was even asked about this today, really, by a Fox reporter. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I forget my train of thought from time to time. You got 12 years on me, sir. Have you been tested for some degree of cognitive decline?

BIDEN: I've been testing. I'm constantly testing. Look, all you got to do is watch me, and I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I'm running against.


COATES: So, you know, Biden wants to turn the tables, obviously, on President Trump. What are your thoughts?

HERNDON: This has not been a move that has worked for President Trump or previous opponents of Biden. Voters know Vice President Biden, they like Vice President Biden, and they do not see this as an issue that has been continuously working for them.

Just look at polling, where seniors are flocking to President Biden -- Vice President Biden, not to Trump. That cognitive decline question and issue is not one that's really resonating with people, but it's one that continuously the campaign has tried to hit.

COATES: Astead, thank you so much. Up next are the confederate statues and symbols in the heart of the nation's capital. Why segregationists and confederate leaders are still being honored on Capitol Hill.




COATES: Mississippi's Republican governor signing a bill today to remove the confederate emblem from the state flag. Contentious symbols have been removed all across the country. So the question is: Why are confederate statues still here on Capitol Hill? Here is Sunlen Serfaty.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With symbols of the nation's painful past coming down across the country, under the dome of one of the most revered buildings in the nation, still sit nearly two dozen tributes to confederate soldiers, officials, and known racists.

Throughout the Capitol complex of the 100 statues sent by the states, 12 percent of them glorify the confederacy, honoring the likes of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, many wearing their confederate uniforms.

A belt buckle of this general is marked with CSA for "Confederate States of America." His statue stands right next to the office for House Whip Jim Clyburn, who participated in the civil rights movement as a young man.

But it is not only the statues. Two rooms on Capitol Hill are named in honor of former senators Strom Thurmond and Robert (ph) Byrd, both former segregationists. And there is a whole Senate office building named for former Senator Richard Russell, whose legislative legacy is marked with white supremacy.

In the Old Senate chamber, there is a bust of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, the man who wrote the majority opinion in the Dred Scott case, which declared that African-Americans could not be citizens of the U.S. There have been efforts to address these questionable relics before. Some have been rearranged, moved to less prominent places on Capitol Hill.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I could move things around. I couldn't actually take them out. That requires something else.

SERFATY (voice-over): But there is a renewed focus in the wake of a national uprising against systemic racism, pushing to get them out altogether.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ): We cannot separate the confederate statues from this history and legacy of white supremacy in this country.

SERFATY (voice-over): Speaker Pelosi this month had paintings of four former speakers of the House who served in the confederacy taken down. But when it comes to removing the statues, her hands are nearly tied. It is up to the states to choose which two statues they want to send to Capitol Hill.

PELOSI: Can you imagine? Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens. Treason. They committed treason against the United States of America, and their statues are still here because their states put them there.

SERFATY (voice-over): Several states had already been making plans to swap out their statues before this moment, like Arkansas, pulling their controversial statues, swapping them out soon for country singer Johnny Cash and civil rights leader Daisy Bates. Replacing the rest of the statues, not to mention the other questionable displays, would take a hefty legislative effort.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The states make that decision.

SERFATY (voice-over): But with many Republicans choosing to look the other way --

MCCONNELL: What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery.

SERFATY (voice-over): There is little chance that these relics could be a thing of history on Capitol Hill.


SERFATY: And sources tell me that the rules committees are at least working right now at the staff level to potentially address some of these issues, including potentially even having hearings. But, of course, up here on Capitol Hill, that can be an incredibly, incredibly slow process. Laura?

COATES: Sunlen, thank you for that. And thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.