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Trump Commutes Roger Stone's Prison Sentence; White House Won't Provide Details Of Cognitive Test Trump Says He "Aced"; White House Adviser Larry Kudlow: "Just Go Back To School". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 10, 2020 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Chris Cuomo is off tonight.

We begin with breaking news. The President, late tonight, commuting the prison sentence, of his some - some-time friend, and long-time associate, Roger Stone. Roger Stone, the convicted felon convicted by a jury, of lying to Congress, apparently on the President's behalf.

CNN's Sara Murray has the details. She joins us now.

So, I understand President Trump called Roger Stone earlier. What are you learning about the conversation?


You know, Roger Stone had been waiting for, and hoping for, this phone call. He said he had been praying for it and that, you know, essentially going to prison would be a death sentence for him.

And finally, as the President, you know, was leaving tonight, he finally called Roger Stone, and here is how Stone described that conversation.


ROGER STONE, PRISON SENTENCE COMMUTED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP: He said "You understand, I have the option, I have the authority to either grant a pardon or commute your sentence."

He says "You should understand that a pardon would be - would be final, and that in accepting a pardon, you are exceptionally accepting guilt, and I would rather see you fight this out, which is why I'm commuting your sentence."


MURRAY: Now, both Roger Stone, of course, and Donald Trump believe that this was politically motivated, that that's the only reason that he faced charges. But even Attorney General Bill Barr has said this was a righteous prosecution, Anderson.

COOPER: What is the White House saying about the commutation? Anything?

MURRAY: Sure, yes. The White House put out a lengthy statement. So, we'll just read you a portion of it.

This is from the Press Secretary saying, "At this time, and in light of the egregious facts and circumstances, surrounding his unfair prosecution, arrest, and trial, the President has determined to commute his sentence. Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!"

And Anderson, I think what you're seeing here is what we've continued to see, from this White House, and this Administration, to sort of rewrite the narrative, around the Russia investigation, and sort of make it seem like no one in the President's orbit actually did anything wrong, and that they were just targeted unfairly.

COOPER: And Stone is still challenging his conviction in Appeals Court, right?

MURRAY: He is. You know, he's gone after the Judge that was overseeing his case. He's gone after the jury saying that they were not - unbiased towards him. And he is trying to essentially get that conviction overturned.

You know, the important thing to remember, about the commutation, is it means he's not going to be going to prison right now, but he's still a convicted felon. And I think that's what played out, in this call, with him and the President, was this indication that Stone is going to continue to try to fight, to clear his name.

COOPER: Sara Murray, thanks very much.

Back to the pandemic, racing across the country, during the President's Florida visit today, he made no reference to it that said the evidence is everywhere, 134,000 deaths tonight, cases topping 60,000 a day this week, and hospitals in big states, and small, filling up.

More now on all of it from CNN's Erica Hill, who joins us now.

Erica, Georgia was one of the first states to reopen, but now there's some major changes happening there.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There certainly are. In fact, the Mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms putting in, in a new order, she says her City is going back to Phase 1. That means she is limiting gathering.

She says no gathering of any size is allowed on Atlanta property. People need to wear masks in public. She'd already mandated that. But she's bringing the City back to Phase 1.

They were in Phase 2 because she says Georgia reopened in a reckless manner, and the City's residents are now suffering the consequences. The Governor, pushing back, calling this plan, "Confusing and unenforceable."

But, Anderson, I want to point out. This is one of the states posting a new record today, daily - a daily high for new cases in Georgia, nearly 4,500.


HILL: And this is one of the states, again, that opened earliest, back in late April.


HILL (voice-over): Long lines for testing in Florida, as the numbers there continue to move in the wrong direction.

DR. DAVID DE LA ZERDA, LEAD ICU PHYSICIAN, JACKSON MEMORIAL HOSPITAL: The situation is really concerning here in South Florida.

HILL (voice-over): Florida is now averaging more than 9,000 new cases a day. A staggering jump of more than 1,200 percent since the State began reopening two months ago. The President, in hard-hit Miami-Dade County today, though not because the positivity rate there is nearly 30 percent.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT: There seems to be this lack of understanding or awareness that we are in one of the most extraordinary public health crises that our nation has ever faced.

HILL (voice-over): The U.S. is shattering new case records almost daily. West Virginia now has the highest transmission rate in the country.

GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R- WV): The only bullet in the - in the gun right now is this right here, this little mask.

HILL (voice-over): 10 states seeing an increase in COVID-related deaths, over the past week, half of those posting their highest average for new cases since the pandemic began.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): I think the numbers are going to look worse as we go into next week. And we need to make sure that there's going to be plenty of hospital beds available in the Houston area.


HILL (voice-over): It's not just hospital capacity and ICU beds. Personal protective equipment is, once again, in short supply in some areas.

DEBORAH BURGER, RN, CO-PRESIDENT, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: We've had plenty of time to plan and take action. And it has yet to happen.

HILL (voice-over): As some states pause, or roll back, their reopening plans, many jobs are also on hold. The $600 weekly unemployment boost will run out at the end of July. But the needs of struggling families will not.

Back-to-school looming with some states just weeks away.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): And I don't think there's anybody who can make an argument that this is especially risky for kids. We have to accept that, and then figure out, you know, how you fashion policy around it.

DR. AILEEN MARTY, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIV.: The viral loads in children are equivalent to that in adults. What does that mean? That means that they can transmit the virus equally well to other people, whether or not they show symptoms.

HILL (voice-over): As districts work to find the right balance, the one constant in every decision, a virus that is here to stay.

DR. MIKE RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: In our current situation, it is very unlikely that we can eradicate or eliminate this virus.


COOPER: You're also learning more about disparities in New York City.

HILL: Yes, that's right. So, there's this fascinating information that came out of CityMD. These are one - some of the Urgent Care offices people would see around the City, maybe in their cities as well.

And so, they looked at antibody testing, at a couple of the different offices, specifically one in Corona, Queens, a hard-hit area, here in New York City. 68 percent of people coming in tested positive for antibodies.


HILL: And you look at number, and this is mainly a working-class neighborhood, a lot of people there had to continue working, while people who could work from home did so. Meanwhile, they compared that.

They put out other information from a CityMD office in a wealthier White section of Brooklyn. Just 13 percent of those people had antibodies. So, what does it tell us?

They say, "Listen, we can't tell you exactly what it means. It doesn't mean everybody who came into that clinic lives in that neighborhood." But it does give some insight into perhaps how certain neighborhoods may be better to deal with another surge of the virus, as it comes along.

COOPER: Interesting! Yes, fascinating. Erica Hill, thanks very much.

Just this moment, another milestone, 63,900 new cases reported today, nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. It's the highest single-day total yet.

More now in Florida, specifically - specifically Miami, where everything happening State-wide, and all the controversies surrounding it, are happening on a bigger scale.

Joining us now is the Mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez.

Mayor, thanks so much for being with us. The Mayor of Atlanta has just reinstated stay-at-home order, going back to Phase 1, for her City. You haven't ruled out doing that in Miami.

Given the fact Miami-Dade County, which is obviously the County to your City is located in, is now seeing a positive test rate of more than 25 percent, is it time to shutdown, or what's the calculus that will go into that decision?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ, (R) MIAMI, FLORIDA: We're definitely approaching that point.

Obviously, our ICU capacity is down to 11 percent. Many of our hospitals don't have any more ICU capacity. Our ventilators are at pretty much the all-time high, close to 197, which is - which was our all-time high.

We are - we are having a little bit of good news, which is that it appears that the rate of growth has slowed a little bit.

It was growing at a rate of 125 new cases per day. That number is down to about 60 new cases per day, which is - which is about half of the rate of growth, which indicates some level of flattening.

And that could be because we did order a "Mask in public" rule about 10 days ago, and that's when we started to see, you know, the slowing of the growth rate.

So, like I said, and like you said, you know - you know, I will not rule out the possibility of a stay-at-home order. And that's something that we're looking at, depending on the data, as we see it over the next few days.

COOPER: The virus' growth in Florida, the surge in Florida, you know, it's sometimes topping more than 10,000 new cases in a single day. I mean, is there any other way to put it than this is out of control? I mean, is this something that you think we have our hands around in Florida?

SUAREZ: Well I think that there's no doubt that the growth is exponential. When you look at, back in, you know, early April, late March, when we implemented the stay-at-home order, our high-water mark was 533 cases.

For the State, it was 1,300. So, when you're talking about 11,000 cases for the State, you're talking about almost a 10 times multiplier. For Miami-Dade County, it's like a six times multiplier.

So, you know, it's no doubt that there's an exponential growth, which is why one of the things that I've urged is for us to have a Statewide "Mask in public" rule, and we should probably have a National "Mask in public" rule as well.

COOPER: Do you know what percentage of people in Miami, I don't know if you have these figures, but actually do wear the masks?

SUAREZ: Well we don't have those - the figures.


What we do have is we do have data that shows, from the moment that we implemented the "Mask in public" rule, to now, we have seen about a 50 percent reduction in the growth rate of the virus, which is good.

And I think, you know, one of the things that all the epidemiologists, and all the experts - experts from Johns Hopkins, also tells us is there needs to be a very clear communication strategy, you know, the clearer that we are, in terms of our communication, the more in sync that we are, in terms of our communication.

That is the closest thing that we have to a vaccine right now, which obviously we don't have a vaccine. So, clearly communicating what the rules are, being on the same page is the best thing that we can do for our residents right now.

COOPER: The Miami-Dade (ph) County made the call to shutdown indoor dining. And I think you said that decision was without justification. Is that - why isn't it appropriate to err on the side of being cautious?

SUAREZ: Yes. Well, you know, some of the restaurant owners felt that the decision that he made didn't have any sort of - it wasn't data- driven.

We have contact tracers right now that are in the process of getting us what we hope to be the information that we need to make, very surgical decisions, to decide to whether, you know, to close certain segments of our economy or not.

And understanding that all these decisions that we make have a dramatic impact on thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people in our community so, you know, when we make a decision, we have to be able to justify it.

COOPER: Right.

SUAREZ: We have to be able to explain it, so that people will follow it.

COOPER: How many contact tracers do you have or are you able to utilize?

SUAREZ: We don't have anywhere near enough. We asked - I asked the Governor, this week, for 500 more. We have about 300 that are working right now.

And just to give you a sense, on a given day, well we have 2,000 new cases. We're getting about 70 survey response, out of 2,000, about 450 that are being contacted. So, that's a contact rate of about 17 percent.


SUAREZ: And it's a - and it's a survey answer rate of about 3.5 percent, which is nowhere near adequate to have an adequate contact tracing program.

COOPER: Yes. I know. I mean CNN did an investigation into contact tracing in Florida. They found that Health Authorities often really just fail to do it.

SUAREZ: Yes. It's not being done at the - at the percentage that it should be done. In mid-June, they were telling us that it was being done in the 90 percent. And now, we're being told, it's being done in this, you know, sort of 17 percent.

And the second part is it's not just about, you know, contact tracing and making sure people isolate. That's, you know, 50 percent of it.

The other 50 percent is getting us that actionable data, so that when we do make a big decision, like shutting down an industry, or implementing a stay-at-home order, we can clearly justify it to our residents, so that they comply.

Because what we don't want is mass non-compliance, from our residents, because we haven't articulated clearly the reasons why we're doing things.

COOPER: Yes. Mayor Suarez, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SUAREZ: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Want to get perspective now from an expert in the field that happens to be right in the thick of it. She's Cindy Prins, Epidemiologist, and Associate Professor at the University of Florida.

Professor, thanks for being with us. What do you - what do you make about what is going on, in Miami, about the re-openings?

CINDY PRINS, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF EPIDEMIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: Yes. Well I think that Mayor Suarez is spot-on, as far as, you know, Miami needed to take a step back in where they were.

You know, they paused in their reopening, and they really have been strong in saying that, you know, we need masks, and we need to think about what people are doing.

We need data on risks, so that we know, going forward, you know, if we need to shut things done, we have a reason for doing it. We can justify it. And also, can we identify places that we may not have thought of, but that are causing risk, and making these cases circulate more.

COOPER: You know, I don't understand. Governor DeSantis had said that there wasn't justification to not move forward, in May, and early June when restrictions in Florida were lifted. It seemed to me that, I mean, if you look at the White House

Coronavirus Task Force guidelines, many states, I don't think if hardly any states had met those guidelines, before moving forward into the next stages.

PRINS: You know, that's true. I mean, we moved quickly. I think that there could have still been a possibility of opening up. But the thing was that had to be very minor, very slow. And that's not what we did.

I mean, open up one thing at a time, and then give it the time, to find out whether or not your cases are going to increase. You're not going to see that in a week or two weeks.

It can take probably a month, or even a month and a half, to see the effect of what you're doing in each stage. And so, this should have been a months' long, you know, maybe even six months of opening up, rather than what we did, which was really rapid.


COOPER: What I don't understand, from a public health standpoint, and I mean I guess this really comes from the White House down, but, you know, it seems like we were given a false choice, which is everything either reopens, or it's stay-at-home and complete lockdown, as opposed to, as you said, gradual reopening with real emphasis on social distancing, mask-wearing, and all the - hand washing, all the things that science tells us actually works in slowing this virus.

And because it was either either/or, we didn't take the middle road, which seems to have been the only one that would have really allowed us to open, yes, more slowly, but also keep social distancing.

PRINS: Yes, I agree with that. I think that, you know, one problem I'm seeing is I feel like we have science. We have data. We have things that we know. And that's what should be driving the policy, as you indicate.

But I think what we're seeing is the reverse. We've got people that want to just put policy in place, and think that you can somehow mold science and data to do what you want, and that's just not the case.

And we really have to think about, you know, where are we right now, how do we get ahead of this virus because, right now, we're well behind it. We're not leading. We're trailing.

And so, we've got to really think about what are the measures that we need to do and do them early. We can't delay like we have been. We can't, you know, react. We have to be proactive.

COOPER: The idea that, I mean, the Mayor was saying contact tracing, you know, 17 percent of people are - are being contact - I mean, that's ridiculous.

PRINS: It's really low.

I think this problem is if you think about the level of cases, in Florida, right now, and then think about the fact that these people may have, you know, on average three or so contacts, and all of those have to be contacted as well, plus the time it takes.

And unfortunately, what we're also seeing, in some cases, is just refusals to give information, to talk to Department of Health. And, you know, this is such a critical step in controlling this outbreak, and for people to refuse it, it really is discouraging to me that they would do that.

COOPER: And they can be - I mean they can just refuse and not - and nothing happens?

PRINS: Well, at this point, you know, we're - we have not enough contact tracing. We don't have enough people to be able to do it.

So, you know, when they're calling, if they're not getting a response, or if they are, you know, meeting someone, who is being resistant, yes, at this point, you move onto the next person, right?

Where is your value? You've got to go talk to someone who's going to give you the information that you need.

COOPER: Yes. Cindy Prins, I appreciate your expertise. Thanks for being with us.

PRINS: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Ahead, the first major American hotspot for Coronavirus is still desperate for help from the Trump Administration, as cases climb.

Up next, my conversation with Washington State Governor, Jay Inslee, with the nation just reaching a new single-day record for cases.

And later, President Trump calls himself "A very stable genius." Now he says he "Aced" a test of his mental acuity, but you may just have to take his word for it.



COOPER: Our breaking news in Coronavirus. Moments ago, we learned the U.S. today set a new single-day record for cases at more than 63,000.

The State that saw America's first Coronavirus cluster is, tonight, dealing with a crisis that isn't slowing down. Washington State is nearly nearing 40,000 reported COVID-19 cases. More than 1,400 people have died there.

The last two weeks show a steady climb in confirmed cases. And the Governor who's overseeing the emergency is asking for Federal help. He too is demanding to know when a national response plan is coming.

I spoke earlier with Governor Jay Inslee.


COOPER: Governor, cases in Washington State are up. You said you don't want to have to shut things down again. Do your worry that this "Every State for themselves" response from the Federal government puts people at risk, additional people at additional risk?

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): Well, listen, we're doing some vigorous things here on testing and contact tracing.

Our new mask requirement's one of the most aggressive in the country. We actually require businesses to deny service to people unless they do wear a mask. I think that's unique in the country.

But listen, it would be very helpful if we had a national policy, all the way up from PPE, to testing kits, to contact tracing, to masking requirements.

If we had national policies, it would help all of the states for many, many reasons, perhaps foremost of which is it would give us a National Mission Statement that would unite us.

And being unified in a time of great peril, in bit of a warfare situation, I do think that would be helpful to the nation. And we just have never had that kind of leadership from the White House, unfortunately.

COOPER: Are you able to enforce a policy of "Everyone has to wear a mask?" I mean, how do you enforce that?

INSLEE: Well, first off, we have had great voluntary compliance, all the way through.

It's one of the reasons we've been relatively successful. Washingtonians get science, so we've had huge - huge majorities have adhered to our - to our orders, and they are continuing to increase their mask usage as well.

Now, one of the ways we've enforced it is that basically businesses are required to serve only those who do mask up now, to protect their employees, and their customers, and that's a legal requirement.

They could lose their licenses, or be fined, if they do not. But we don't want to have to use those enforcement measures. And so far have not. We've had huge adherence.

And I'm pleased to say there's some evidence, early evidence that this is working. We have one hotspot in Yakima, in Central Washington, where we're seeing a decline in cases, following our very vigorous masking requirements. So, there's some early signs this can work.

COOPER: Do you think there should be some sort of Federal mandatory mask policy, whether it's through businesses or--


COOPER: --or some other way? INSLEE: I think that would be helpful for a variety of reasons.

One, we know it works. The science is now quite compelling that it works. Two, these are universally accessible. Three, they're very inexpensive. Four, there's no physical downside.

And we know that when the nation has a National Mission - when Kennedy said "We're going to the Moon," it resonated with people.

And if we had a leadership that asked the Americans to unite behind a National Mission, I do think that would be helping peoples' recognition that we are all in this together in the United States. That's a National Mission, I think, it would be helpful.

COOPER: You know, that's one of the things about this virus is, science tells us they know what actually works, to reduce the chances of it spreading. As you said, it's mask wearing, it's social distancing, it's all the things that we're all now familiar with. And that is the good news.

The bad news is, you know, the CDC has put out guidelines of recommendations for how schools can reopen as safely as possible.


The President, you know, yesterday, said they're too tough, they're too expensive, and impractical solutions, wants them to rewrite it. And the CDC seems to have caved, and is coming up with something else, coming out next week, because the Vice President said, you know, these other ones also were too tough.

INSLEE: Well, look, this is a familiar and very infuriating pattern of the President.

He started this situation by denying a problem, then he disengaged from it, and now he's using deceit about the current level of science. And denial, disengagement and deceit is not a strategy for health and victory here. And this has been consistent.

And both Republican and Democratic governors have repeatedly asked the President to step up, and show leadership, and he simply has refused to face the difficult decisions. But we are soldiering on in the states. And I am glad that we have some leadership, at the State level, to try to make up for this.

But this refusal to follow science, in America, the country that did go to the Moon, and now can't go to the mask, or at least, the President might be the last person in America that gets this, that masks really work, is not the American Way.

But we're going to keep fighting on in our State. I know other governors are as well.

COOPER: Governor Inslee, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

INSLEE: You bet. Thank you. Mask up. Wash your hands. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: "Mask up. Wash your hands," good advice.

The President said he has taken a cognitive test and "Aced" it. He said the doctors who gave it to him were surprised. More on that, ahead.



COOPER: You might recall the President has called himself "A very stable genius." Last night, he elaborated a bit. The question is, is what he said true.

CNN's Tom Foreman, tonight, puts it to the test.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I actually took one when I, very recently, when I, when I was, you know, the Radical Left were saying, "Is he all there? Is he all there?" And I proved I was all there, because I - I aced it.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The President's boast of acing a cognitive test is laced with questions.

Does he mean the one he took in 2018 at Walter Reed Medical Center or something more recent? Perhaps during his surprise trip there last November? Critics remain skeptical of claims he was getting a physical. And the White House is offering no proof for his latest assertion.

TRUMP: I took it at Walter Reed Medical Center, in front of doctors, and they were very surprised. They said "That's an unbelievable thing. Rarely does anybody do what you just did."

FOREMAN (voice-over): Really? Not likely, according to medical experts, who say such tests are just not that hard.

ARTHUR CAPLAN, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF MEDICAL ETHICS, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: I wasn't there. But I doubt very much that astonishment was the reaction of the doctors.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which we know Trump took, at least once, lasts only 10 minutes.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You may be asked to name animals, such as a lion, a rhino, a camel, draw lines between letters and numbers, in an ascending order, and maybe even doing things like subtracting seven sequentially, so 100, 93, 86, 79, you get the idea.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Acing such a test would do nothing to bolster Trump's relentless claims of being much smarter than his political foes.

TRUMP: I know I have an IQ better than all of them. I know that.

I guarantee you. My IQ is much higher than theirs.

Some of the pundits, you know, the - the guys, believe me, we're much smarter than them. IQ-wise, not even a contest.

FOREMAN (voice-over): So, why brag about it? Perhaps because his campaign is attacking 77-year-old challenger, Joe Biden, on that front.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Biden is clearly diminished.

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All men and women created, by the, you know this, you know the thing.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And Trump, just three years younger, has had some awkward moments lately, spurring questions about his mental and physical competence, no matter what he says.

TRUMP: Been very consistent. I'm an extremely stable genius.


FOREMAN: Whatever the reason for the boast, there is also this to consider. If the doctors were, as the President says, surprised he did so well, why? And what was he being tested for in the first place?


COOPER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

Want to go in with - to White House Correspondent, Jeremy Diamond.

Does the White House plan to release the results of this test? I'm not sure why the President even brought this up.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Anderson, right now, we don't even know which test the President is actually referring to.

We know that he took this Montreal Cognitive Assessment, back in 2018. And one official suggested to us that that was the test that the President was referring to.

But we also know that he went to Walter Reed, for the surprise visit, for which we have very few details of, just last fall. So, the question is did the President take another test here?

Ultimately, though, Anderson, this is a pretty simple short 10-minute test that tests memory and some simple mental faculty skills. And the only thing that it says is that the President likely doesn't have any mild cognitive dysfunction.

It doesn't really show anything else about the President's cognitive capabilities. And yet, we see the President, here, touting it.

COOPER: Yes. Do we know why he's bringing it up, I mean, his cognitive capability is unprompted?

DIAMOND: Look, this is something that goes back for a long time with the President. We know that he has repeatedly referred to himself as "A very stable genius." And the President has focused on trying to portray himself as somebody of above-average intelligence.

That has only heightened, in the wake of questions, that he has faced about his own cognitive function, when we have seen him, slurring words in public, or having trouble walking, as he recently did, during that West Point graduation.

But beyond that, Anderson, it also comes now in the context of the President trying to swing this attack around, on the former Vice President, Joe Biden.


And that is something that we have seen from this President, time and again, going back to the 2016 campaign. I'd like to call it the Boomerang Insult, because that is what Trump does.

He takes something that's being flung his way, an insult that he is facing, or a question that he is faking - facing, a vulnerability, and he throws it against his opponent. He did it against Hillary Clinton in 2016. And now, we're seeing him use this very same tactic against Joe Biden.

And so, it seems the President here, raising this unprompted, in part, again, to deflect from the questions that he is facing, and also to raise questions about his opponent, who's a few years older than him.


COOPER: Jeremy Diamond thanks very much. Appreciate it.

The President says he wants schools to reopen but says the CDC recommendations for doing that safely are too tough and expensive. But a leading Medical Ethicist warns of possible nightmare scenarios. We'll talk to him next.



COOPER: President Trump, once again, today, threatened to cut off Federal funding to America's public schools.

It's his way of forcing kids, and teachers, back to classrooms, despite the fact the U.S. continues to shatter records for Coronavirus cases, as we did again, just today. For some schools, a return to in- person teaching could be just a month or so away.

One of the President's closest advisers apparently doesn't worry too much about any of the risk.


LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: Just go back to school. We can do that. And, you know, you can social distance, you can get your temperature taken, you can be tested, you can have distancing. Come on, it's not that hard.


COOPER: Art Caplan leads the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, here in New York.

Art, you say, caving to this sort of pressure, from the Federal government, about reopening schools for in-person instruction is an unregulated experiment. What do you mean by that?

CAPLAN: Well, Anderson, sending our children back, in the middle of a plague, that's out of control, not knowing whether they really will get sick, or how infectious they're going to be, is really indefensible.

It's a gigantic, if you will, experiment. We don't know. And I have to add, when somebody says, "It's just easy, let's go back to school," I find that outrageous.

You mean the child who has juvenile diabetes, the child with asthma, they just go back, to a school that doesn't have good ventilation, or where kids are 36, 37, to a classroom, and no social distancing?

I mean, are we really going to sacrifice our kids blindly with no control, and no safety, just saying "Go back?"

COOPER: It is remarkable to me how the CDC which, you know, puts out these guidelines, and the guidelines they released, by the way, were, you know, debated, delayed, finally kind of put on, online in, you know, the dead of night, ignored by virtually all the states, and to order reopening businesses.

And now, their guidelines with the schools, the President says, "Well they're too tough, too expensive, and they're going to rewrite them," and the Vice President says they're going to come out with new tools next week.

Does it worry you that science seems to be capitulating, at times, to political pressure?

CAPLAN: Yes, it does worry me a great deal. I'm tempted to say CDC has got to hold the line here. It can't sacrifice kids, in the name of political pressure, to make things appear normal.

Look, not only, Anderson, are we in a plague that's out of control with COVID, you send those kids back to school, remember, we were just finishing the flu season, when COVID came last March.

It'll just be starting, let's say, in October, November, most kids at, if you look at the numbers, have not had their shots for measles and mumps, they're going to be able to spread those, if they go back into school.

Are we asking that they all get vaccinated for sure before we send them back? It's a toxic stew that faces our children, and they can be bringing the plague, or the epidemic, if you will, to their teachers, back into their homes, back to their grandparents.

To say that it's time to, you know, ignore the science, it's just not fair to kids, who can't themselves give consent to what's being done with them.

COOPER: It's interesting because, I mean, that is one of the arguments that, you know, a lot of people make. "Look, you know, this isn't so bad for kids. And, you know, the numbers obviously of kids who've died or, you know, it just doesn't seem to harm kids that much."

But what you're saying essentially is this is also an experiment on adults, who are working in the schools as well, as well as the adults who are back home that the kids return to.

CAPLAN: Exactly. So, we know that younger people at least don't get hospitalized, and die, at the same rate as elderly people do.

But we also know that they can spread infection, we're not sure about the rate, but if you got older teachers, older bus drivers, older janitors, if you're going back to a home where there are older grandparents that are helping out.

What we're seeing is "Go back to school" is partly a slogan to go back to normal. There are plenty of people who are home-schooling. Some people can distance-learn, you know, remotely. Why do they have to go back to school?

And if you're not going to make the schools, at least, minimally safe, in terms of ventilation, and heat, and making sure that there aren't too many kids per classroom, then what you're doing is basically treating kids as a tool in a political war. Kids don't deserve that.

COOPER: It's odd to me, you know, Larry Kudlow saying "It's not too hard to reopen schools," it actually is hard. I mean, even in normal times, it's hard to, you know, reopen schools.

He, you know, I'm not sure the last time he was in, you know, a public school. But I mean the challenges they're facing, and just even making changes to infrastructure, you know, to the facilities, cost money, money that a lot of schools don't have, even if they're getting--


COOPER: --special pandemic funds.

CAPLAN: Yes. And look, you know, Flint schools, Philly schools, Baltimore schools, some of that don't even have running water. You can't get a drink. You can't wash your hands. They had these problems before COVID broke out. I don't think they've been exactly fixed. [21:45:00]

There is this notion, I think, out there, that "We just fling the doors open, and schools are a happy place, everyone will be back at recess." Schools are a tough environment. Without fixing that, it's really dangerous to just send everybody back.

COOPER: Art Caplan, I appreciate it as always. Thanks very much, Art.

CAPLAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Ahead, Roger Stone's "Get out of prison free" card, before he even went in, courtesy of the man he helped put in the Oval Office, Donald Trump, our Michael Smerconish, on whether it will make any difference with voters, next.


COOPER: Our breaking news, Friday night, convicted felon, Roger Stone will not be setting foot in prison. President Trump has granted him clemency.

I want to bring in CNN Political Commentator, Michael Smerconish. He's the Host of Smerconish, and a new CNN Special, "Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking."

Michael, I was talking to Jeff Toobin, Preet Bharara earlier, both of whom said this shows contempt, on the President's part, for the criminal justice system. I'm wondering what your reaction is?



Supporters of the President will read that White House statement that was released tonight, under the stationary of the Press Secretary, which says "This was all part of a maligned Mueller investigation. Had there not been an investigation, then Roger Stone wouldn't have been facing charges."

What I find significant, Anderson, is that nowhere in the statement, that was put out by the White House tonight, is there any claim of innocence on the part of Roger Stone.

Critics of the President will therefore say "Hey, a corrupt President just provided some safeguard for a corrupt friend."

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Roger Stone, just today, said to a reporter, speaking of the President, he said, "He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn't."

I mean, OK, so he didn't flip on the President. But I mean it does sort of raise questions of now the President is getting him out of prison time. Is this a reward for not flipping? I mean it doesn't seem like that's how things are supposed to work in this country.

SMERCONISH: If there was nothing about which to flip, then presumably, he wouldn't be in this predicament. I see exactly what you're saying.

Can I just add? I'm not surprised by this. As you've pointed out, it was Roger Stone who really got the nascent 2016 campaign off the ground, and then was either fired or quit. I never bought into that shtick.

I always thought that the two of them recognized that they needed to be at arm's length, and so they came up with a very convenient relationship. But Roger has always been in the background, during the course of the campaign, and the Administration.

COOPER: Yes, it was interesting.

I mean I remember when, you know, he was fired. Stone said he quit. But even then, you had the sense that, in talking to him, that he was still, you know, in touch with the President, and still kind of working informally.

SMERCONISH: No doubt. I've interviewed him. I've known Roger a long time. And I remember interviewing him, during the course of the firing period, you know, the cooling off. And he always seemed to have insight--


SMERCONISH: --that could only have come from having the President's ear.

COOPER: You've got a Special, airing tomorrow night, on CNN, at 10 o'clock, chronicling your long career in politics and broadcasting. I want to play a clip.


SMERCONISH (voice-over): I met Ronald Reagan as a newly-minted 18- year-old. I worked in the George Herbert Walker Bush Administration when I was just 29.

I once had a seven-hour dinner with Fidel Castro at his house. I got to take former Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf, to vote with me, at my suburban Philadelphia polling place.

I confronted the living members of Led Zeppelin with a demand that they re-unite. You can watch it on YouTube. It didn't go so well.


COOPER: The variety of stuff is amazing. I'm shocked Led Zeppelin doesn't take orders from you.

And your seven-hour dinner from Fidel Castro, I've heard about those. Yikes!

Who's left on your list--


COOPER: --to interview?

SMERCONISH: I - I've had fun along the way.

And tomorrow night, I'm privileged to have the forum for an hour. It's a night for me to be able to reminisce.

But there is a serious message. There's a message that I want to deliver tomorrow night, about the partisan gridlock, how it came to be, what created this era of polarization. So hopefully, it'll be entertaining. But folks will learn some things as well.

COOPER: Well I really look forward to it. It's always fascinating. Michael Smerconish, thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: Thank you. Thank you.

COOPER: A reminder, tomorrow night, join Michael, for an entertaining and poignant and fascinating look at his one-of-a-kind career. CNN presents "Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking". It's tomorrow night, 10 P.M. Eastern, right here on CNN.

Up next, we remember the victims of the pandemic, including an EMT and a barbecue restaurant owner.



COOPER: I want to take some time tonight, as we try to do every night, to remember some of the lives lost during this pandemic.

Gail Green-Gilliam was the Assistant Police Chief in Phenix City - Phenix City, Alabama.

She worked for the Department for more than 30 years. The Police Chief in Phenix City said she was his partner, and friend, and praised her sense of duty and loyalty, both as a police officer and as a person.

Gail was a foster parent for Special-needs children and a long-time member of her church. Her sister says she touched the lives of many, and demonstrated love in the purest form. Gail Green-Gilliam was 56- years-old.

Scott Geiger was an EMT in New Jersey. He received his EMT certification when he was just 17-years-old. Imagine that! From then on, he dedicated his life to helping others, and all the people he helped.

He was one of the longest-standing team members at Atlantic Mobile Health, and his colleagues say he tended to thousands of patients in his long career. They called him a hero, say he is sorely missed. Scott Geiger was 47-years-old.

Hecky Powell was considered the Unofficial Mayor of Evanston, Illinois, for 37 years. He ran Hecky's Barbecue, where he fed everyone, from struggling students, to Chicago Bulls, to former President, Barack Obama.

Hecky was known not just for his food, but for his generosity, and commitment to his community.

He mentored disadvantaged kids, in the area, and also counseled local politicians, including the Governor of Illinois. Hecky stayed open during the pandemic, still feeding as many people as they could.

Hecky himself took part in Evanston's Mask Campaign. You can see him here with the logo "No Mask No Sauce." Hecky Powell was 71-years-old.

We think of them all, and we wish their families the best in this difficult time.

News continues. Want to turn things over to now to Don Lemon and CNN TONIGHT. Don?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: And I second that, Anderson. Thank you very much. A busy night for you, a busy night for me as well, you have a great weekend.

COOPER: You too.

LEMON: This is CNN TONIGHT. I am Don Lemon.

It is Friday night. America is in the grip of a pandemic that has killed more than 134,000 of our citizens. And that is rightly where our focus will stay, tonight, on those people who have died, and the crisis that is facing our country.

But we do have some breaking news, President Trump commuting the prison sentence of Roger Stone.

Roger Stone is the infamous political dirty trickster, and long-time Trump crony, who was days away from reporting to a Federal prison in Georgia, convicted of perjury, witness tampering, obstruction.