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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump Commutes Roger Stone's Prison Sentence; Donald Trump Continues To Downplay COVID-19 Case Surge In The U.S.; Trump Says "We're Still Doing Very Well" As U.S. Cases Top 3.1 Million, Nearly 134,000 Deaths; Trump Ignores Data, Says "We're Getting Back On Track"; Tracing Florida's Coronavirus Surge. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired July 10, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: You just have to go to CNN Go. You can get it on any device. Have a good and safe weekend. AC 360 starts now with Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. There's breaking news tonight. The President has just commuted the prison sentence of his former campaign adviser and longtime confident, Roger Stone. But whatever it means and whatever it says about the President's view of the law, it's also a distraction tonight from his failures on the most important issue facing the American public today.
So we'll get to it shortly, but we begin tonight with the most central fact of the pandemic, the coronavirus is winning and the Trump administration has no plan for stopping it.
That's the truth tonight, and it's been the truth for every night of this pandemic. It is sad and simple as that. The virus is winning and there is no plan.
At the end of a week that saw new cases in this country top 60,000 a day, the most anywhere on Earth, the most ever in this pandemic.
And at the end of a day that has just seen a major American city, Atlanta, roll back its reopening to Phase 1 because cases there are spiking.
Tonight, more than four months and 134,000 lives into this growing not shrinking pandemic, after two brutal weeks of cases spiking, hospitals filling up and now ICUs overflowing, the President of the United States still does not have a plan for turning this around. What he does have as shown by his statements and actions and actions not taken is a plan for downplaying, a plan for ignoring, a plan for sometimes even mocking the single greatest preventable loss of life in this country's peacetime history.
Whether he is as his niece, Mary Trump suggests in her new book simply incapable of comprehending the suffering of others or whether he comprehensive it and just doesn't care, he has made it abundantly clear that he does not want the country to know about it. He does not want you to pay attention to this virus or to do the very basic things that would actually work to curtail the spread of the virus.
It's clear he does not want the country to have the kind of shared fact-based picture of reality that would help us all in this fight.
His only plan, if you can call it that is to gaslight, the American people over and over and over again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think we are in a good place. We've done a good job. I think we're actually -- we are going to be in two, three, four weeks by the time we next speak, I think we're going to be in very good shape.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We're in a good place, going to be in very good shape, he says. When he said it on Tuesday, the death toll stood to more than 130,300 American lives lost. Today. It's 134,000. So in just three days since then, nearly 4,000 more Americans have died.
There's no good place on Earth, no decent place, no normal place where so many people die so needlessly in so few days. Certainly, no place with a plan to save lives because a plan would include steps to understand the size and the scope of the pandemic through testing and straight talk about the danger, instead, this is what we get.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Testing. There were no tests for a new virus. But now we have tested almost 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases 99 percent of which are totally harmless.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean that is just nonsense. It is worse than nonsense. I mean it is dangerous. He is telling us this deadly pandemic isn't really bad at all.
Ignoring that even if you don't die from it, you can permanently be scarred by lung damage, brain damage. They don't even know the long term effects.
And of course, the Vice President whose main job now seems to be making the President's lies seem more palatable has locked in a survival embrace of the President explained away the President's 99 percent lie by saying, gosh, he is just an optimist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, look, the American people know President Trump is an optimist. He believes in this country, but he also believes the American people deserve to have the whole story.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: He's just an optimist who loves this country so much. He loves
his country so much, he can't be honest. It's because he loves us that he lies to us every day. That's what the Vice President would have you believe.
Mr. Pence, he is correct. The American people deserve to have the whole story. So, here's what the Vice President and the President -- here's what they don't say.
COVID is not 99 percent totally harmless. COVID is actually about 4.6 percent fatal, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
And even though the death rate has been falling for a while, it's now climbing again. More cases leading to more people being hospitalized and now more people losing their battle with a virus the President still calls 99 percent harmless.
Since reopening, Texas has seen new cases rise by 849 percent. Nearly 10,000 new confirmed infections today alone. In Arizona, cases up 887 percent. Major hospitals at full capacity.
And since reopening, Florida's case numbers have risen by 1,237 percent. The state has gone from averaging 680 new cases per day to more than 9,000 -- all since reopening.
Having a plan to save lives and build testing and contact tracing and supplies of PPE would mean not pushing those states to reopen too soon as the President did and he even was talking about reopening the country by Easter. Remember that?
TRUMP: Wouldn't it be great to have all of the churches full? You know, the churches aren't allowed, essentially, to have much of a congregation there. And most of them, I watched on Sunday online.
And it was terrific, by the way, but online, it is never going to be like being there. So, I think Easter Sunday and you'll have packed churches all over a country. I think it would be a beautiful time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He is such a godly man. It's incredible. A beautiful time. He said that on March 24th when the death toll stood at a thousand.
Cases were already though exploding across the Northeast when he said that. So in other words, when it was abundantly clear, if it wasn't already from watching Italy and Spain, that this was perhaps the last best moment to implement a coordinated Federal response for protecting the entire country.
But again, there was not, and there still isn't. There was only a push to pretend the problem didn't exist or it would just go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China.
We have it very well under control. We have very little problem in this country at this moment.
We have it very much under control in this country. Very interestingly, we've had no deaths.
The coronavirus, which is, you know, very well under control in our country.
And everything is under control. I mean, they're very, very cool. They've done it, and they've done it well. Everything is really under control.
It's something that we have tremendous control of.
And the crisis is being handled.
We are likewise getting under control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So if you're keeping score at home, the President's COVID-19 plans so far into this day include denial, deception, listening to the stock market, but not the virus, or the C.D.C.'s own guidelines or his Coronavirus Taskforce's own guidelines when it comes to reopening the economy, which is now shutting back down again.
And the plan now includes pushing states do the same for schools as they did for their economies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And we hope that most schools are going to be open. We don't want people to make political statements or do it for political reasons. I think it's going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools close. No way.
So we're very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools, to get them open. And it's very important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: This is like Soviet doublespeak. People hold -- want to keep the schools closed because they think it benefits them politically. What governor thinks it benefits them politically to keep public schools closed across their state? Parents angry. Kids angry. Parents suffering at their jobs because they can't go to work because their kids are at home, and somebody has to take care of them. Who does that thinking it scores political points?
The last time around the President looked the other way as states disregarded C.D.C. guidelines for reopening safely. He encouraged them to reopen and ignore his own Taskforce guidelines.
This time, for schools, for America's kids and their teachers, he is trying to weaken the guidelines themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: The President said today we just don't want the guidance to be too tough. That's the reason why next week, C.D.C. is going to be issuing a new set of tools.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Yes, we don't want it to be too tough guidelines. You don't want scientific guidelines to be too tough. You want it -- you know, you want just some new tools.
A plan for fighting the virus and saving lives would mean strengthening those tools, not weakening them, and in the larger sense, it would mean not showing contempt for the scientists crafting the guidelines, assessing the dangers and informing the public.
Kaitlan Collins tells us the President has not even attended Coronavirus Taskforce meetings since April. Not only that, but Kaitlan also is reporting the President hasn't seen the nation's leading infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci and a member of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce in over five weeks. He hasn't briefed the President in two months.
Why would that surprise anyone? Dr. Fauci is well respected. He's an expert in the field. All those are negatives to this President.
The President doesn't want to hear what Dr. Fauci thinks, they're completely at odds over the virus. Dr. Fauci is too smart, too political to confront the President directly. But he does speak honestly when asked. Don't take my word for it. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Done a great job, whether it's ventilators or anything you want to look at.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don't think you can say we're doing great. I mean, we're just not.
TRUMP: We have some areas where we're putting out the flames or the fires, and that's working out well.
FAUCI: Right now, if you look at the number of cases, it's quite disturbing and we're setting records practically every day of new cases.
TRUMP: We test so many people that we have more cases everybody says we have so many cases. That's because we test so many people.
FAUCI: Even though the numbers look good and this is the thing that is a little bit concerning to say, well we now have 37 million tests have been performed, when you get on the phone and talk to the people in the community, there are still lapses there where the dots are not being connected.
TRUMP: I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.
FAUCI: To my knowledge, none of us have ever been told to slow down on testing. That just is a fact. In fact, we will be doing more testing.
TRUMP: What we do have is we have perhaps the lowest, but among the lowest, but perhaps the lowest mortality rate, death rate anywhere in the world.
FAUCI: It's a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death.
TRUMP: We are going to be in two, three, four weeks by the time we next speak, I think we're going to be in very good shape.
FAUCI: I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.
TRUMP: I think we are in a good place.
FAUCI: I think it's important to tell you and the American public that I'm very concerned because it could get very bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And it has. Even in the days since he said that, it's gotten worse. Even as in states like Arizona, doctors and nurses say they're running out of protective equipment. Four months in and that is still a problem. We're still talking about personal protective equipment. Can you imagine that?
In part because there's still no Federal effort to coordinate the purchase and distribution of supplies. Four months in, there's no Federal mandate on mask wearing or even the President support for statewide mandates.
He is still flouting the guidelines. Even as his own Taskforce members implore and in some cases actually beg people to wear masks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: 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.
FAUCI: There's no doubt that wearing masks protects you and gets you to be protected.
ADMIRAL BRETT GIROIR, H.H.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY: We need to support mask wearing. When I'm not in uniform, I wear them. They're white. They work very effective. And I think they're a great investment for the American people.
DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: It is not an inconvenience. It is not a suppression of your freedom.
FAUCI: When you're outside and not have the capability of maintaining distance, you should wear a mask at all times.
ADAMS: This face covering actually is an instrument of freedom for Americans, if we all use it.
ALEX AZAR, HUMAN AND HEALTH SERVICES SECRETARY: Wear facial coverings where social distancing is not possible.
ADAMS: Please, please, please wear a face covering when you go out in public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The President as you know said he just doesn't see himself wearing a mask, not -- you know, not presidential. A spray on mask to protect his vanity that apparently is presidential now, but an actual mask that would protect other people, that's a no go.
If the President wore a mask, it would at least send a message to those foolish enough to still listen to him. A mask is the one thing that we can all do that science shows could save tens of thousands of lives even if no other steps are taken -- just that. Just putting on a mask.
Instead, the President's vanity is so extreme, so absurd that CNN has learned the White House advisers who want him to do this one simple thing had been searching for venues where he has to wear a mask so he can put it on without it seeming like he changed his mind.
To wear a mask without losing face because for this President, saving face is more important than saving lives.
More now in all this from CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She is at the White House.
So Kaitlan, the President went to Florida not to address the pandemic. What is the rationale the White House is providing for that?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not a lot really. I mean, if you had looked at the President's schedule today, Anderson, you would not have known there was a pandemic going on.
He goes to Florida for this drug trafficking in South America briefing, something that he even said they had thought about doing on the phone, but he said he wanted to be there in person, despite that 28 percent positivity rate happening in Miami Dade County, where he was.
And then he went to a roundtable with supporters about Venezuela and then he goes to this campaign fundraiser where he raised about $10 million we're told, and then now he's on the way home. He has commuted the sentence of his longtime friend, Roger Stone. And it's just -- he made one brief mention -- just one -- about COVID-19 today, and that was just him talking about what things looked like before the pandemic actually hit the United States. And that was it.
COOPER: You know, when you and I talked a couple of days ago, I was stunned when you told me that, according to the reporting, from what you understand that the President has not attended a Coronavirus Taskforce briefing since April.
The idea that he hasn't attended a Coronavirus Taskforce briefing since April and yet he flies all the way down to Florida. He doesn't really mention other than one real quick mention about the pandemic for a briefing on drug trafficking, which he could have done on the phone for simply the photo op and also tell, I guess, the freight cost of him ultimately then going to this fundraiser. That's just stunning to me.
I mean, he'll go to an obscure briefing on something that, you know, is obviously important, but could be done in the phone, yet, fly in person but he won't go to a Coronavirus Taskforce briefing since April.
COLLINS: Well, and the Taskforce meetings happen in the Situation Room, not far from the White House residence, the Oval Office, of course, it's just a few steps away, but he does not go to those, has not been since April.
And the other thing to consider about the President's travel is not just what he was doing down there. But you know, what resources it takes for a President to go somewhere.
We've already seen how the hospitals in Miami are saying they're overwhelmed right now. But when a President goes, you know, Secret Service goes beforehand to scope out things in case of a worst case scenario, which hospital would he go to? They've got to block off certain roads.
He's got a pretty big staff that goes and stays in hotels as they're scoping it out. So, it's also the question of are they overwhelming resources where they say they're already overwhelmed on there.
COOPER: As we mentioned, Dr. Fauci has been speaking out in public. He doesn't appear on our town halls anymore. He's doesn't seem to be allowed to be on television the way he used to. I don't think that's by accident.
He is disagreeing with what the President says. What is going on between the two of them? Because Fauci said I think today that he hasn't briefed the President in more than two months.
COLLINS: Yes, they're basically just not speaking. I think sometimes when you see the tension between them where Fauci is contradicting something the President has said, that's just not rooted in fact, or the President is criticizing Dr. Fauci for giving some advice at the beginning of the pandemic and different advice now.
You know, when they've met in person, people around them say it's not contentious. It's not like how the President has treated other people that he's disagreed with before.
But the fact of the matter is, that lately, they just do not simply see each other.
And today is a great example. The President left the White House this morning about 10 o'clock. Dr. Fauci showed up about 40 minutes later for that briefing that was happening in the Situation Room. So they're not speaking, they haven't spoken. He says -- that's what he told "The Financial Times," since June 2nd, and he says he hasn't actually briefed the President in two months.
And so the question is, you know, not just do they not get along, but when the President complains about C.D.C. guidance on reopening schools, the question is, you know, if he wanted to know what the C.D.C. guidance was going to be, why doesn't he go to these meetings or talk to the C.D.C. Director or talk to Dr. Fauci about what they're saying.
COOPER: Right. We had Redfield on at the Town Hall last night. And frankly, you know, when he testified before Congress a couple of weeks ago, he wouldn't say the last time he actually spoke face-to-face with the President United States.
The others were saying back then, Fauci had said it was about two weeks. So, it's got to be even longer for Redfield, because clearly the President doesn't like him.
I mean, and again, these are the top scientists and the top officials, the President of the United States, and they're not talking.
Kaitlan Collins, I appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Coming up next, two top public health experts weigh in on where this is heading, where we are heading. Professor William Haseltine and Dr. Peter Hotez who is in Houston where hospitals are now at a breaking point.
Also executive clemency for Roger Stone, no surprise, but that happened. The President's latest thumb on the scales of justice when we continue.
COOPER: We will have a live report on the President's decision to commute his friend, Roger Stone's prison sentence and analysis from our legal team.
Before that, though, we need to hear from our mental health experts about the lack, more than four months into the pandemic of any coordinated Federal response to it. That and the ongoing clash between the President and the facts, as well as the people bringing him those facts.
Joining us is William Haseltine, a preeminent researcher formerly at Harvard University, the recent author of "A Family Guide to COVID: Questions and Answers for Parents, Grandparents and Children."
Also, Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine.
Professor Haseltine, you know Dr. Fauci, you've worked very closely with him on HIV-AIDS. When he tells the "Financial Times" he last saw the President on June 2nd, and hasn't personally briefed him in at least two months, what does that signal to you about -- you know what is going on and where things are headed?
DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, CHAIR AND PRESIDENT, ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL: It's not a good sign. The chief infectious disease officer for the United States who really understands this disease is Dr. Fauci, Dr. Redfield also. They are extremely well versed in what to do.
And it's like flying blind. It's like turning off your radar in the middle of a storm if you're not talking to those people, they are the people you need to guide you through this storm.
COOPER: Professor, do you worry that the C.D.C., which is you know, the preeminent or traditionally has been the preeminent scientific organization around the world that people turn to, has it been severely weakened under this administration? Because it does seem like there have been a number of instances, just the most recent one, just you know, yesterday or two days ago when the President said the guidelines on schools by the C.D.C. are too tough and expensive.
And Vice President Pence said, we know they're too tough. They're going to get new ones next week, and there's going to be something coming out next week.
HASELTINE: The C.D.C. is the organization that we Americans trust to give us policy guidance on how to behave, and what rules to follow for our country, for our cities and states reopening and for sending our kids back to school, our most precious possessions, our children.
And it is absolutely critical that we listen to the best advice. They are the best in the world. They are still the best in the world. But it doesn't help if no one listens, or if they change the rules for whatever purpose. It's a very dangerous situation for individuals and for our children.
COOPER: Dr. Hotez, I mean, every day that goes by without a national plan, without leadership from the Federal level. I mean, the fact that now PPE is back in the headlines about questions about how much PPE is available. Doctor, does that make any sense given how far we are into this pandemic.
DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF THE SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: You know, Anderson, if this continues at this rate, we are headed towards something unprecedented and catastrophic. Let's look at what the country is going to look like say six weeks from now say by September 1, if we continue along this trajectory.
We will easily exceed 100,000 cases per day, new cases a day, Dr. Fauci's apocalyptic prediction.
HOTEZ: We will have hospitals overwhelmed not only in terms of ICU beds and hospitals beds, but exhausted hospital staff and hospital staff that's getting ill themselves, so we won't have enough manpower -- human power to manage all of this.
So the consequence of that is, that's when we see mortality rates going up. That's what we saw in Italy. That's what we saw in the early stage of this epidemic in New York.
So we already have the deaths now starting to increase. They said there were no deaths. Now, we knew there was a lag. Now the deaths are starting to increase. It will accelerate as hospital use become overwhelmed.
We will have students in schools where the teachers now are getting sick and the school staff will start to abandon the schools. So what we're looking at is what I think is going to be one of the most unstable times in the history of our country, unless we figure out a way to do something, unless we implement a Federal plan, and we still can do this, but we need a President engaged. We need a White House engaged.
COOPER: So Professor Haseltine, just assuming, okay, taking that as a potential future, assuming the President is not going to shift strategies, which there's no sign he is, let's talk about what the rest of us can do and the other, you know, governors and Congress and others, what can be done to not have us have 100,000 per day?
HASELTINE: Let me first of all reinforce what Peter said. All people who study these viruses think that the summer is the quiet time. I want you to think about that. This is the quiet time for coronaviruses. That's what you were hearing. That's what we believed.
If this is the quiet time, I hate to think what winter is going to be like this year. That's the first thing to say.
Second thing to say is it feels a little bit like you're on a ship where the Captain has said, we're thinking. Every man for himself.
Well, if it's every man for himself, we better pay attention and do what we can to help ourselves. We have to make sure we wear masks like everybody says. We have to social distance, if we can. We have to be aware of our environment. What is the infection rate in our immediate environment, so we know how much risk we're taking when we go out?
All of these things are left to individuals, which is a very sad state of affairs. We need the government right now to send the needed people and equipment and supplies to our southern and our western states.
We need our government to start an education bailout program to help our schools prepare. We are not prepared at the Federal level and the local level can't afford the changes that are needed.
COOPER: Dr. Hotez, what do you see as a path forward?
HOTEZ: Well, the path forward is there's no choice. We have to have a Federal plan and roadmap. We know the states cannot do this in the lead and we've seen what happens. It just doesn't work.
And so, now we have to look around of who is going to step up to take control of our COVID response. If the White House won't do it, we want to look to the C.D.C., the C.D.C. seems to have trouble with taking leadership. They seem to want to have the state's lead with C.D.C. advising. Maybe they can turn it around, that would be the best thing that could happen.
If not, I think we're going to have to look at what are the levers. Can Congress take control and mandate that if the C.D.C. won't do it, you know, we have other options. We have the U.S. military of all. We have the energy labs. We have the contractors, but someone is going to have to step up. There's no other way around it.
COOPER: Dr. Peter Hotez and Professor William Haseltine, as always, thank you so much. I really do appreciate it.
Up next, the breaking news on Roger Stone, the President's longtime friend and former political adviser just days before he was scheduled to report to prison, now a free man says the White House after the present commuted his sentence. The reaction when we continue.
COOPER: Roger Stone was due to report to prison next week for lying to Congress and witness tampering for a stay of more than three years, but the President just completed his sentence of his longtime confidence, so he's not going to go to prison at all. White House calling him a victim of the Russia hoax tonight.
Want to go back to Kaitlan Collins, the White House for detail. So what more we know about the decision? I mean, it's been a long time coming and a lot of hints about it. When was it made? Do we know how it was made?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There have been a lot of hints about it. But I do want to note, there has been some really serious internal division over whether the President should go forward with this. I mean, even yesterday, people were raising the prospect of the President not following through, because he is getting advice, saying that it is going to hurt him politically, people were worried about the repercussions of that Anderson. But then, of course, you also had Stone's allies who were calling the President saying look at these devastating legal fees he's facing, and really trying to appeal to the President to pardon his longtime friend by saying this attack on Stone is an attack on you. And people started to say, that's the way the President saw it.
And so, you know, you saw it the day that Roger Stone was sentenced, the President was speaking to a group of people who had been incarcerated and change their lives. And he started going off about the justice system. So that's how he's been viewing this. And of course, this is how it culminated today as the President was going to Florida. He spoke with Roger Stone today. It was a pretty brief conversation. We're told and then he let him know that he was going to be community as Senate.
And we're told by people close to Roger Stone that he had been a little bit nervous actually Anderson, because it's Donald Trump. He's unpredictable. And he wasn't completely sure what the President was going to do. And they had not been speaking. They were really speaking through intermediaries at the time. And though of course, now he has used the power of his office to help his friend out.
COOPER: And I mean, the way this President has used executive clemency before for other allies. I mean, did anyone really think he would let Roger Stone go to prison? I mean, there really was some belief that he might.
COLLINS: I think there was belief that there was reluctance on the President's part to do it. I mean, he and Roger Stone, they go way back. They've known each other since the '80s. They met through Roy Cohn, of course, the President's former attorney that he still talks about so much, but also remember he fired Roger Stone from his campaign he claimed and then Roger Stone claimed he quit because he said Roger Stone was publicity seeking. So they do have this back and forth relationship. And, you know, the President doesn't like to deal with things directly. He likes to do so indirectly. So he knows that by computing this sentence, the blame and the responsibility goes to President Trump himself. And I think there are people inside the White House who were trying to appeal to him to get him to not to do it, though of course they were not successful.
COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much. Appreciate it.
Legal protection now from our chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jeff Toobin. Also, our senior legal analyst Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
So Jeff, obviously the President's progress prerogative. What do you make of it though?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it's the three words that sum up the Trump presidency shocking, but not surprising. I guess that's four words. And, you know, this is the most corrupt and cronyistic act in, you know, in perhaps all of recent history. You know, Richard Nixon at the height of Watergate, never pardoned or commuted the sentences of any of the people involved in Watergate. He thought he could never get away with it. But our standards have sunk so low that the President could reach out to someone who was convicted of a crime. That, you know, everyone who's convicted of that crime goes to prison. He was sentenced to 40 months, he's going to do no time for the only reason that he's the President's friend. That is not how the American judicial system is supposed to work. And it is not how it has worked historically, even with friends of the President who get arrested.
COOPER: You know, Prett, the President said, you know, right before he cleared peaceful protesters that he's, you know, the law and order president. Is this law in order?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: No, it is not. I mean, look, as a technical matter, one of the most unfettered powers that any president has, is the power of the pardon. It's unreviewable. You can't appeal to any court. But long order mean something more than, you know, technical power and authority that you have, and I agree with what Jeffrey said, about how corrupt an act it is, maybe not a prosecutable act. Oh, some people think it might be.
Earlier today, Roger Stone said to a journalist, I'm really hoping for a pardon or some clemency. And one of the reasons for that is I could have turned on the President. And I didn't, and there's a lot of pressure for me to do so. And I would have made things easier for myself if I had, which is an astonishing statement and an admission of something. Ordinarily, if it were you or me, or Jeff Toobin, hopefully all upstanding citizens who haven't broken the law, and some random person said, I was under pressure to turn on one of you. You know, we might say, go ahead. Yes, what are you going to say?
The fact that Roger Stone said I resisted pressure to turn the President is essentially an admission that he was in a position to implicate the President in misconduct or wrongdoing. And as a big wet kiss, a.k.a big favor, to Roger Stone, President commuted his sentence. You know, he's permitted to do it. There's nothing you can do about it, because it's in the constitution and there's wide latitude for him. But it is something that should I think astonish every American, even after a series of bits of conduct by the President that are astonishing. This is up there.
COOPER: And Jeff, I mean you mentioned that the prison time people convicted of crimes Stone was found guilty of usually get. Can you just remind everyone what those crimes were what it was that he did?
TOOBIN: He was charged with seven counts of, of crimes related to the Mueller investigation. The first crime was obstruction of justice, five crimes of lying to Congress and one crime of witness intimidation, threatening in effect to kill a witness and perhaps his dog who were going to testify against him. You know, this was no joke. Even William Barr, who was hardly, you know, critical of the President, said he thought it was a legitimate prosecution.
This is something that's just simply not done by American presidents. They don't pardon or commute sentences of people who are close to them, who are about to go to prison. It just does not happen until this President. And, you know, we're going to see if anyone cares.
COOPER: It's also Preet, I mean, somebody who is accused of doing something to benefit the President. I mean to that it's, you know, it's not just the President pardoning somebody who is a wealthy donor, or, you know, this is somebody who was, seems to be covering for the President?
BHARARA; Yes, look, it's a combination of things, all of which really sort of mark this in MCC. It's someone who's an associate of the President, that he got involved with, who committed crimes that were intended to protect the President. And then he looks like he did a favor for the President by not opening his mouth and keeping his mouth shut. And the President using were the most extreme powers that the chief executive has to then save that person. So all across the board, it's the kind of thing that no one contemplated, I think the pardon power to allow.
And further to Jeffrey's point. Now you have the parallel case of Michael Flynn, where the Justice Department didn't extraordinary thing and is moved to dismiss that case. So we know, if the Justice Department thinks that someone was wrongly investigated and prosecuted and convicted, they will go so far as to move to dismiss the case even after conviction by guilty plea. And Bill Barr did not do that here, even though he intervened in what I think was also an inappropriate way. And then the lack of the lack of independence on the part of the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C., moved only to reduce the sentencing recommendation.
But even in the case of Roger Stone, this person that people think is not independent from the President that the treasurer of United States did not think to go so far as to say this was an improper prosecution or an improper conviction, and a jail time was appropriate. That shows you how far even further, the conduct of the President is with respect to someone who's close to,
COOPER: I will -- so Jeff too, if this was, you know, if we were watching this happen in some other country and you look at it, you say, oh, wait, here's a leader who's helping out his criminal pals, while trying to get his political opponents investigated. That I mean, that's what happens in authoritarian countries, which is what happens in, you know, places where the, you know, there's ruling families and in this case, I guess there is because there --
TOOBIN: It's one of the signatures of authoritarian countries, that they control the judicial system to favor their friends. That is what authoritarianism means, in how countries are governed. That's how we know the difference between corrupt countries and countries where the rule of law matters, because in corrupt countries, the people who are close to the President, don't get treated like everyone else, they don't get punished or prosecuted when they violate the law. And that is precisely what --
COOPER: Jeff's screen froze there. Jeff Toobin, thanks very much. Preet Bharara, as well.
Up next, House speaker Nancy Pelosi on the Trump administration's coronavirus response and her thoughts on the community sentence of Roger Stone.
[20:47:16] COOPER: Our breaking news tonight President Trump commutes the prison sentence of his longtime Legal Adviser Roger Stone. Earlier tonight I talked about it with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the White House made the announcement, but we started with the White House response to the coronavirus pandemic and what Washington might do to turn things around. Here's my conversation with Speaker Pelosi.
COOPER: Madam Speaker, President Trump is claiming that we are in a good place Those were his words in this pandemic he's pushing obviously for schools to reopen, but says the CDC guidelines are too tough, expensive and impractical. Hasn't been to a Coronavirus Task Force briefing since April. And Dr. Fauci now says he hasn't seen the President more than a month hasn't directly briefed him in more than two months. Should the American people listen to anything the President says at this point regarding coronavirus, and if not, who should they listen to?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: No, the fact is, is that the President has been a failure in every way, right from the start his denial, calling it a hoax, his delay, and all the rest have gotten us into a very bad place. But we want to go forward. And where we go from here is not to listen to the President, because he doesn't listen to the scientist is very, very sad. And now he's messing with our children. We all want our children to go back to school, but we want them to go to school safely. And that's an absolute must for every parent, and for every teacher in our country.
COOPER: You talked about the importance of testing and tracing, of treating and distancing. Things are so bad, though, in some states that, you know, the experts I've been talking to say contact tracing now isn't even practical in some places because they're just simply too many positive cases. How do we get out of this without, you know, centralized federal leadership?
PELOSI: Well, you just have to have that leadership. In all of the countries of the world that had been successful in curtailing the spread of the virus, or at least to in some cases ended, they've had a centralized leadership and that leadership has to have a strategic plan based on science. And all the science tells us what we have in the Heroes Act is about testing, tracing, treatment, distancing mask wearing, hand washing. And the President's just seems to resist science and he also resist governance, science and governance are what will get us out of this. But the President -- I just I can't explain it. I don't want to waste too much time on him we have to do is how can we go for it. One way is to pass the Heroes Act.
COOPER: How where does that stand now? Because obviously, you know, there's supposed to be a second. Can you explain more about the Heroes Act, what it what it will entail?
PELOSI: Oh yes, I'd love to. First, there are three pillars to the Heroes Act. It's called the Heroes Act, because it's about our heroes, our healthcare workers, our teachers, our first responders, our transit workers and food suppliers than the rest, sanitation workers, all the services that meet the needs of people, and that how we honor them, and we have no authority to thank them or honor them unless we want to support them.
COOPER: Dr. Fauci said this week that any state that is having a serious problem with infections right now, should seriously look at shutting down potentially California, obviously your home state one of those states struggling right now, sadly. I mean, is a shutdown in California or any other state that seeing a surge and continued infections. Is that something governor should entertain?
PELOSI: Well, I think each community have to make -- has to make its own decisions in terms of the state and the state and et cetera, as to what the infection rate is there, how it has diminished or not over a 14-day period. And people have to make their judgment. Leaders there have to make their judgment about what works in their communities because the shutdown is a hard thing. You know, people don't want to have to stay home, they want to go to work. They want their kids to go to school, but they do -- they are so smart. The American people are so smart. They don't want to do this unless it is safe.
And that's a judgment that the communities have to make, but in order to help them make that we have to let them -- they have to be able to quantify what the virus is in their community testing, tracing, treating, social distancing.
COOPER: Just final question, CNN is reporting that according to a half a dozen people close the President it's widely expected he's going to grant clemency to Roger Stone before he's set to report to prison next week. The President continues to brand himself obviously a law and order president though with that definition is for him is, frankly, unclear. He would be going against the Justice Department's wishes here, if he did this to say nothing of the jury and the federal judge. What do you think of that idea?
PELOSI: I think it's a terrible idea. Just look at this administration, the President and his henchmen, so many of his friends, advisors, campaign chairman, et cetera, are in jail, and for the President to be able to issue a pardon on the basis of a crime that the person committed, assisting the President is ridiculous. And we have to -- there ought to be a law. And I'm recommending that we pass a law that Presidents cannot issue a pardon. If the crime that the person is in jail for is one that that is caused by protecting the President, which this was.
COOPER: Speaker Pelosi.
PELOSI: It's a poem, it's a poem (ph).
COOPER: I appreciate your time. Thank you.
PELOSI: My pleasure. Thank you so much, Anderson.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, on COVID there's perhaps no place more paranoid for the lack of a plan than Florida where 11,000 new cases today reported in Florida. A second highest single day jumped. The state now falling under scrutiny from task force member Dr. Fauci who argues Florida, quote, jumped over checkpoints and reopening. Governor DeSantis pushing back saying there was no justification not to move forward at the time.
Randi Kaye is in Palm Beach County tracing what went wrong.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On April 1st, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a stay at home order hoping to contain the coronavirus. Weeks later, while visiting the White House, the governor took a victory lap for how he managed things back home.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Everyone in the media was saying Florida was going to be like New York or Italy. And that has not happened.
We had a tailored and measured approach that not only helped our numbers be way below what anyone predicted, but also did less damage to our state going forward.
KAYE (voice-over): That turned out not to be the case at all. Trouble started in early May when DeSantis rush to reopen, before many other states, restaurants, gyms, barber shops and beaches were first to reopen in most parts of the state. After Memorial Day, the virus was starting to rage. By July 1st, there were more than 9,000 new cases reported in one day statewide. And recently, new daily cases topped 11,000. But if you listen to DeSantis, there's a disconnect.
DESANTIS: I think we've stabilized at where we're at.
KAYE (voice-over): That's just not true and the data proves it. Since reopening, Florida's average number of daily new cases has jumped more than 1,200 percent. And dozens of hospitals throughout the state have run out of ICU beds.
In the last two weeks in hard hit Miami-Dade County. The need for ICU beds has increased 88% and ventilator use jumped 123%. The state's positivity rate is hovering close to 30%.
DAN GELBER, MAYOR MIAMI BEACH: We are in the midst of a very, very vicious spike in our community in Miami-Dade County. And, you know, one thing you can't have is for a governor or a President trying to downplay it as if it's not an urgent thing we need to pay attention to.
KAYE (on-camera): Urgent indeed. But despite the governor's promise to release data of how many patients are hospitalized here in the state of Florida with COVID, he has yet to do so. Instead suggesting this week that all of the information can be found on Florida's Department of Health website. DESANTIS: They have so much raw data on there. I mean, people can pull out, you know, all this information. I mean, it's really incredible the amount of -- I mean people do the charts and the graphs and everything.
KAYE (voice-over): That's not true either. The information is just not there, specifically the critical number of hospital patients with COVID-19. So while the governor continues to defend his move to reopen the state, the fact is more than 4,100 Floridians are dead, and the message from the governor still coming up short.
DESANTIS: There's no one need to really be fearful about it.
KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Palm Beach County, Florida.
COOPER: Well, ahead more on tonight's breaking news, Roger Stones spare from prison with only days to go as President Trump commutes his sentence. What the White House to say about tonight's decision, next.