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More Than A Thousand Deaths In The U.S. From COVID-19 Today; A Number of Promising Developments In Treating And Preventing The Disease. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, thank you so much, all of you, for joining us. Please have a good weekend, a safe weekend.

Don't forget you can watch "Out Front" any time on CNN Go. Anderson starts now.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: A very good Friday evening to you. Anderson is off.

But we begin tonight with something that he said a while back that sadly fits this moment. There is, he said, no better BS detector than the coronavirus. It has a way of exposing the falsehoods, the magical thinking, the politicized nonsense now surrounding it and it does so with brutal simplicity by taking people's lives.

And there is no better embodiment of this notion than the President of the United States today. He has been reading a lot of words lately, even drawing some praise for it about wearing a mask for instance and social distancing. But he neither wrote them nor meant them. And we know that by his actions -- by these actions, by this video of him arriving today in Tampa, Florida.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much, everybody. That's really great. Thank you. Thank you for being here. It's a good crowd.


SCIUTTO: A good crowd, he says. Note, though, no social distancing. No masks.

He traveled to Tampa in part for a roundtable on the virus. This is how we end this week, a week in which the virus went right on doing what it does, a week that saw the death toll pass 150,000 Americans and infections top 4.5 million.

Against that backdrop, the House Subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis heard from top members of the President's own Taskforce and what lawmakers heard for the most part was a thorough debunking of falsehoods, of false hopes, and do as I say, not as I do BS that COVID-19 unfortunately thrives on, such as the President's patently insincere call for mask wearing.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I am appealing to all Americans to be part of the public health solution. Wearing a simple mask properly, it's critical to limiting the transmission. Be smart about social distancing and being in crowded spaces.


SCIUTTO: And yet, after all of this, try telling it to the boss who also appeared at a crowded mask-free event in Texas this week, and his mask-free visit to Florida today comes just a day after the death of his friend and surrogate, Herman Cain who attended Trump's big rally in Tulsa last month and fell ill with the virus a short time later.

The President's trip and the behavior he modeled also comes in the wake of Congressman Louie Gohmert's COVID diagnosis and it's just bizarre speculation that covering his face actually made him sick.


REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): I can't help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place that if I might have put some germs and some of the virus onto the mask and breathed it in.


SCIUTTO: Well, that's garbage and it was debunked today.


QUESTION: Does wearing a mask give people COVID-19?



FAUCI: Not to my knowledge.


SCIUTTO: Yet, I smile when he said it. Also debunked by his own experts, the President's repeated defense of hydroxychloroquine and a doctor who touts it. A doctor also happens to believe that women can be impregnated by witches and spirits in their dreams. We're not making this up.


TRUMP: I was very impressed with her and other doctors that stood with her. I think she made sense, but I know nothing about her. I just saw here making a statement with very respected doctors. She was not alone. She was making a statement about hydroxychloroquine with other doctors

that swear by it. They think it's great, but she was not alone.


SCIUTTO: That's the President just two days ago. So listen to the facts. Listen to the experts. Here's Dr. Fauci today.


QUESTION: Do people take hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19?

FAUCI: The overwhelming cumulative evidence of properly conducted randomized controlled trials indicate no therapeutic efficacy for hydroxychloroquine.


SCIUTTO: That's how science works. So, Dr. Fauci was later asked about the one study that the President likes to tout in support of the drug and debunked that talking point as well.


FAUCI: The Henry Ford Hospital study that was published was a non- controlled retrospective cohort study. That was confounded by a number of issues including the fact that many of the people who were receiving hydroxychloroquine were also receiving corticosteroids, which we know from another study gives a declared benefit in reducing deaths with advanced disease.

So that study is a flawed study, and I think anyone who examines it carefully, is that it is not a randomized placebo controlled trial.



SCIUTTO: Listen to the experts. Let's go on to the next falsehood from the President. The President, as you know, repeatedly claims that testing is overrated, that it is testing that makes the country look bad, and if you somehow did less testing, there'd be fewer infections. Here's yet another member of the President's own Coronavirus Taskforce.


ADMIRAL BRETT GIROIR, H.H.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY: Testing is an essential component of America's public health response to COVID-19. Testing enables clinical decision making. It heralds impending outbreaks. It informs resource allocation and it assists in minimizing economic and social disruption.


SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, the President is apparently not listening to folks like that employed by his own administration.

Testing is how South Korea, for example, kept its death toll below 300 -- just 300 without ever having to fully shut down the economy. It is how Germany kept its own outbreak in check. And it is something that this country has never gotten a handle on nationally, never developed a national strategy to address.

Why would you when the President himself calls it overrated, and why test for something the President says, and has said repeatedly will just go away.


TRUMP: It's going to disappear one day, it's like a miracle. It will disappear.

It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.

It will go away. You know it. You know, it is going away, and it will go away and we're going to have a great victory.

It's going to go away, hopefully at the end of the month, and if not, hopefully it will be soon after that.

I think what happens is, it's going to go away. This is going to go away.

I feel about vaccines like I feel about tests. This is going to go away without a vaccine.

I always say even without it, it goes away.

I think that at some point that it is going to sort of just disappear, I hope.

QUESTION: You still believe so? Disappear?

TRUMP: Well, I do. I do. Yes, sure, at some point.

You know, I said, it's going to disappear. I'll say it again. It's going to disappear.

The virus will disappear. It will disappear.

You know, I say it's going to disappear. They say, oh, that's terribly. I say, well, it's true. I mean, it's going to disappear.


SCIUTTO: Well, it's not true. It goes without saying. It never has been, and it's more than a little crazy that anyone let alone the President should need to be reminded, but he does and today he was.


QUESTION: Is COVID-19 going to magically disappear, Dr. Fauci? FAUCI: I do not believe it would disappear because it's such a highly

transmissible virus. It is unlikely that is going to disappear.


SCIUTTO: There you have it, not going to disappear. That's science and in a sad but somehow fitting capper on the week, the President just this evening made this remarkable statement with the gaslight turned up to 11.


TRUMP: Well, I hate it anywhere. But if you look at other countries, other countries are doing terribly.

I will say this proportionately, relatively when you look at your nursing home situation, it's a tribute to your governor and government. The job they've done.

I think we're doing really well in Florida.


SCIUTTO: Yes, it's not true in Florida. It's not true nationally in this country. It's an expanding crisis. Just in Florida, for instance, hitting a new high today for the fourth day in a row.

Joining us now is Dr. Aileen Marty. She is an infectious disease specialist at Florida International University. And CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, we've talked so many times about this, and I sense your patience is thinning with the nation's response here. Understandable given your understanding of this.

So on a day with cases past 4.5 million in this country, the President once again goes to an event, doesn't wear a mask, no social distancing. How did we get here? And how do we get out of this situation without presidential leadership, which doesn't appear to be coming?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT Well, you know, as far as how we got here, Jim, I think it's really -- you know, the comments you just made, I mean, there's been a systemic minimizing that's been deliberate of this disease since almost the very beginning.

We lost more than a month of February where we basically ignored this and we know the virus continued to spread. And as it's become, you know, more widespread, we've talked about doing less testing instead of more testing. There's been 10 times as many people who have been infected as we've even counted.

So that that's how we got here. The original sin is really that we minimized this, didn't test as a result, and here we are. How can we get out of this? Well, Jim, you know, there's countries

around the world that have been able to bring their numbers down to very manageable. One in a million or one in 100,000 at least new infections per day. That would be 350 new infections per day in the United States. That would be sort of containment mode.


GUPTA: They don't have a vaccine to do that. They did the basics. Mask wearing, physical distancing, avoiding the highest risk situation, which is indoors clustered together without a mask like bars or restaurants, avoiding big gatherings and washing hands.

I mean, look, I know it sounds silly, almost because we're used to like wanting a purple pill or whatever, some sort of, you know, magical cure, but this works, Jim, as we've seen around the world.

SCIUTTO: Yes, testing and contact tracing, too, in a large scale. Dr. Marty, Florida, as you know, set a new record for coronavirus deaths for the fourth straight day.

You saw the President traveling down there. He says I think we're doing really well in Florida. You know the actual situation. Tell folks who are watching what the reality is on the ground there.

DR. AILEEN MARTY, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Well, the reality is absolutely heartbreaking. We've had children die. We've had a very high incidence of Kawasaki disease, the multisystem, inflammatory syndrome that we're now seeing in children.

We have in Miami-Dade alone, 118,400 odd people that have tested positive and over 500 individuals in our ICU. It is an excruciatingly challenging situation right now.

SCIUTTO: Yes. We see it every day. Sanjay, so you have a Hill hearing today of Dr. Fauci, of Dr. Redfield, Admiral Giroir repeatedly debunking a series of the President's false claims.

I wonder. They know the truth here. Is that changing the policy? Right? I mean, is the Federal government, is the administration given that these three experts work for the administration -- is it somehow able to develop a policy without the President's leadership

GUPTA: I think it's very hard, Jim. And it's surprising. It's shocking, frankly. I wouldn't have predicted this at this point. But you have hearings today in the middle of a pandemic that is the worst public health crisis in the world and it's getting worse in the United States.

I couldn't believe how much of that was just politicizing, you know, the science and these doctors having to fact check things.

We should be talking about significant breakthroughs in testing. We should be talking about real life ways of getting kids back to school, like, how's that going to happen safely? And instead, you know, there's this back and forth -- are protests really that dangerous or are they not that dangerous?

It doesn't matter. I mean, people clustered together, the virus will spread if people are not masked and clustered together for long periods of time. It's basic. You know, viral dynamics.

And the thing is that it doesn't matter if you're a doctor or whatever. At this point, people understand that I think. The fact that they're not acting on it, I think, is just an absolute reflection of the fact that this is still being minimized, and that's a lack of leadership -- a hundred percent, Jim. There's no reason that we need to be in this mess right now.

SCIUTTO: So Dr. Marty, you know --

MARTY: Jim, if I can add?

SCIUTTO: Please.

MARTY: Well, I just -- Sanjay is absolutely right. There is a huge problem with the perception that certain leaders are giving to this outbreak which confuses the public and because of not providing the right perception, this is a super dangerous virus and we all must cooperate and help one another get past this.

And when we don't act that way, when we are not unified in being against the virus instead of fighting amongst ourselves, then we're splitting ourselves up and setting ourselves up for failure, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. So all those things you want and every expert, doctor wants, every other country that's got a handle on this has done, it's not happening here, nationally, and frankly, Sanjay, I don't know that we're going to see that happening.

You, Sanjay have used the metaphor, often of sort of half treating a sick patient. You know, giving them half or less than half of the medicine they need, and therefore, they never get better. I mean, is that where this country is until you hope you get a working vaccine?

GUPTA: Yes, I think that we have applied half measures, you know, sort of all along and that goes back to the original sin of minimizing this. We've held pressure on the wound thinking the patient would just heal on their own as opposed to taking care of the underlying problem.

But you know, if you put up those five things again, those basic five things, which again, people may say, this is silly, we're talking about these five things of mask wearing, of social distancing of not going to bars, avoiding large gatherings.

If we did this for three weeks, okay, so we should just make a pledge right now. If the country did this for three weeks, honestly, diligently and widespread, three weeks, we would probably be in a very different position.

Forget about whether or not your political elected leader is telling you to do it or not. As Dr. Marty just said, we're all in this together. We really are. Nowhere and no point in our lives have we all been in this together

like we are right now.


GUPTA: We are so dependent on each other. So for three weeks, do these very simple things and we'll be having a different conversation -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, it'd be great to see it if folks listen. Sanjay, thanks so much. Dr. Marty --

MARTY: I'd like to add -- I'd like to add that if we do this, then maybe we can open schools safely because we've got to get the viral burden down so that we can do this.

SCIUTTO: Right. It's key. That comes first. Dr. Marty, thanks to you as well.

Just ahead this hour, an update on vaccines and treatments and perspective on their prospects from a researcher with decades of experience in the field.

Later, a presidential historian's take on where we are as a country with the President speculating about postponing the election and casting doubt on the entire process.



SCIUTTO: Welcome back. A new forecast tonight from the C.D.C. projects that by the 22nd of August, a little more than three weeks from now, the COVID death toll in the country will top 173,000 -- twenty thousand more. It comes at the end of another day of more than a thousand fatalities and Florida surpassing its daily high for the fourth straight day.

Set against that grim news is a number of promising developments we should note in both treating and preventing the disease. We're going to speak about that in a moment.

First, a report from CNN's Elizabeth Cohen.


BILL GATES, CO-FOUNDER, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: The medical profession is getting smarter every week, and eventually they'll be armed with amazing therapeutics.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): That's philanthropist, Bill Gates on CNN's Global Town Hall, Coronavirus: Facts and Fears.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and its partners are funding up to $125 million in research for coronavirus treatments.

For now, doctors are mostly using treatments that already exist for other diseases. Studies show blood thinners help fight clots that are common among COVID patients and steroids reduce the risk of dying from COVID-19 and preliminary unpublished data shows that receiving convalescent plasma or blood from someone who has recovered from coronavirus also reduces the risk of dying.

As far as new weapons against COVID-19, there is just one approved treatment, remdesivir. A study published in May shows this antiviral drug shaves four days off a hospital stay.

While that's helpful, it's not nearly enough. There's still a need for more new coronavirus treatments.


GATES: I think that therapeutics is actually the most promising thing and not talked about as much as the vaccines because if you have multiple therapeutics that between them are reducing the death rate and the amount of serious sickness by over 80 percent, probably over 90 percent. That does start to reduce the horrific burden.


COHEN (voice over): And there are many in the pipeline, Dr. Francis Collins is Director of the National Institutes of Health.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: Most exciting for therapeutics, in my view, the use of monoclonal antibodies derived from people who have survived COVID-19, who have made these antibodies to help them recover and those can now be turned into products.


COHEN (voice over): Dozens of companies are developing these drugs. They call the strongest antibodies that fight off COVID-19.

Some looks so promising that they're already in Phase 3 testing on coronavirus patients like Jennifer Burt (ph), an Arizona nurse who got infected.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've seen people sick from this virus. I've had a friend struggle for his life with this virus. I've had patients in the hospital who are scared because their family can't be there at an awful time in their life.


COHEN (voice over): Earlier this month, the Federal government awarded Regeneron and $450 million to fast track its development and manufacturing.


KAYLEIGH, MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They say they could have up to 70,000 to 300,000 vials of this by the end of the summer or early fall.


COHEN (voice over): A different approach, antiviral drugs that directly attack the virus and researchers are also studying drugs that affect the virus's RNA, its actual genetic material.

These approaches are leading to new insights about how we combat the virus so that while we wait for a vaccine, and perhaps even after, doctors can help patients with COVID-19.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN reporting.


SCIUTTO: Some promising signs there, so perspective now from public health expert and former Harvard Professor, William Haseltine. He now chairs Access Health International. He is also author of "A Family Guide to COVID: Questions and Answers for Parents, Grandparents, and Children." I'm sure a lot of folks would gain a lot from reading that.

Professor, thanks for coming. You heard Bill Gates say there that in his view, therapeutics could be just as important as a vaccine to controlling this outbreak. I wonder, do you agree?

DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, CHAIR AND PRESIDENT, ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL: I definitely agree. I'm a veteran of the AIDS wars. I came up with a theory of combination chemotherapy for HIV. And it's -- in the absence of a vaccine, it has done wonders.

People who would have died are alive and they are alive for decades and we can do the same for this virus.

I think, if I were a betting person, I would bet 95 percent on drugs and 50 percent on vaccines as being the most effective way to handle this disease.

We can make drugs that not only treat and cure people, we can have drugs that prevent infection, just like we now have for HIV. Drugs that prevent infection.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's interesting because as you know yourself well, that's a disease that there never was a vaccine developed for.

So, of these methods so far, is there one that you find particularly promising?


HASELTINE: I think that the monoclonal antibodies will be the first. There's advantages and disadvantages. They're expensive to make. They have to be given intravenously. The virus gets resistant to them relatively quickly.

I'm actually more in favor of small chemical drugs that work to inhibit the processes the virus absolutely needs. That's what's worked for HIV and I think that will work for many other viruses.

There is another respiratory virus, respiratory syncytial virus that babies get and it helps them, so I think there are many, many things that we can do and are now doing and that's coming soon.

SCIUTTO: So let's talk about vaccines. You heard the head of the so- called Operation Warp Speed say he expects a vaccine to be as effective as 90 percent. Dr. Fauci adding, injecting a little bit of skepticism about that, but even he has said workable vaccine possibly by the end of this year, are you as hopeful?

HASELTINE: I think we will have a vaccine. How well it works and how safe it is, is going to be the big questions. But Dr. Slaoui should know better. He has worked for 30 years on problems like HIV and malaria, where we don't have answers. He doesn't know as much as he may think he does about this virus. You should never try to bet against nature.

Coronaviruses are tricky. They re-infect people every year, the same cold viruses. This is a coronavirus. It's like a cold virus.

You can't underestimate how tricky it is, and that's why my bet is not a hundred percent and it's not even 90 percent like Dr. Slaoui's. I would say it's somewhere like 50 percent given how complex these infections are. These are complex infections.

SCIUTTO: Yes, smart to be skeptical throughout. Finally, just very quickly, do you believe this country can reliably get a vaccine to all the people who need it when it comes out?

HASELTINE: You know, that is a big question. We've seen the massive failures on testing, which you've talked about earlier in the program. We've seen the massive problems with getting a country to work as one, which we will need.

You know, getting a vaccine to people, especially in these times where there's a lot of anti-vaxxers, and our President was an anti-vaxxer. It's going to be tricky.

You've got to use care and persuasion, not the strongest tools in the toolbox today.

SCIUTTO: Well, let's hope -- let's hope we get there. William Haseltine, thanks very much.

HASELTINE: You're welcome. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: And just ahead this hour, our Gary Tuchman takes us to the first day of school at a district in Georgia which decided to open its classroom doors without a firm mask mandate and despite the concerns of parents and children, and the emotions get very raw and real. You'll want to watch, that's when 360 continues.




SCIUTTO: With many school districts deciding to forego e-learning and open classrooms in the next several weeks. A new report from the CDC underscores just how easily a coronavirus outbreak can happen when children and adults mix. The board says more than three quarters of children and staffers tested at a sleepaway camp in Georgia contracted the virus. That outbreak happened over a period of just days, and even after taking the state's recommended measures to operate including demanding proof the children had tested negative prior to arrival.

Our Gary Tuchman is in Georgia tonight and spoke with children and parents at a school district that just opens its doors as well. And where the tensions over that decision are running high.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): (INAUDIBLE) isn't sure of sending her son back to school is a good idea. But 11 year old Christopher says he's ready to start sixth grade and to do it in person. So when the school bus arrived here in the small Georgia town of Jefferson, he boarded with his books on his back and his mask on his face, and prepared to start his middle school career in this most unusual of times.

(on-camera): Are you sad?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Christopher's mother tells me Yes, I am sad and worried about my son going to school. As the bus pulls away, there was at least one student not on it. Christopher sister Sherelle (ph). She was going to start eighth grade, but at the last minute was too frightened to go.

(on-camera): Tell me why it's scary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I don't want to go because I'm scared of getting it and --

TUCHMAN (on-camera): It's OK, lots of children are scared. It's OK. I think you'll be OK, tomorrow or next week. Maybe it's OK. And your mom's nice to let you stay home. Do you agree? Your brother went to school today, he'll tell you how it is right. So we wish you the best.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Just up the road at the high school students gathering and hugging like they would any year on the first day, many of them wearing masks, but just as many if not more, not wearing any face coverings. At the elementary school, parents dropping off their children, most of whom seem to have masks, but not all. The f act is while masks are mandated on the district school buses for students and drivers, there is no mandate for mask wearing in the actual schools for students or teachers.

The Jefferson City Board of Education has many guidelines in place designed to keep the students safer and mask are handed out, but actually wearing them is not required, only strongly recommended. We talked to high school seniors Hope Terhune and Rylee Meadows before they returned to school.


HOPE TERHUNE, STUDENT: I'm ready to be back like in person learning but it is kind of scary like not knowing where it's really going to be like.

RYLEE MEADOWS, STUDENT: I think I would feel better about it if we had stronger mandation (ph) in our school system to keep us safe, we need to.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): So they started an online petition asking their board of education to mandate masks.

MEADOWS: I'm scared for not just myself but for other teachers that are at our school, elderly and pregnant and then the people that you could be bringing home to some people live with their grandparents or people that are at high risk if they got the virus.

BRETT KELLEY, STUDENT: Our country was built on freedom.

TUCHMAN: In response to that petition, sophomore Brett Kelly started his own with the support of his older High School sister and his father. His petition declaring mask wearing should be a choice.

KELLEY: I think it's a freedom issue because we're slowly taking our rights away.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): And you're right, not to wear a mask?

KELLEY: Yes sir.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): Would you feel less if I was standing here talking to you without my mask on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we're outside and.

TUCHMAN (on-camera): But what if we were inside?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'll probably be OK. Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The District Superintendent did not want to talk on camera. But Donna McMullan told us in a written statement they are confident in their plans. And regarding masks, we are following the guidelines established by the CDC and Georgia Department of Public Health in recommending the use of face coverings as one effective measure to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Meanwhile, Yolanda Payne is not going to let her fourth grade son go back to school right now. They are part of the roughly 5% of Jefferson school families who have chosen to learn remotely. She says her father passed away from COVID two months ago, and her son Josh has asthma.

YOLANDA PAYNE, PARENT: I can't take the risk of sending him back to school and getting COVID.


SCIUTTO: Gary Tuchman joins us now. And you know, Gary, the experience that family who spoke with the very beginning of the story, you know, struck a chord because I hear that disagreements all the time sometimes within a family, you know, not only how to parents decide, but how to children's decide, how are they doing now?

TUCHMAN: Oh, that's right, Jim. And we talked to Christopher and Sherelle. A short time ago. Christopher is the sixth grader he said when he went to school today, he was very worried that some of his friends weren't there also, but he says all in all was cool. And it went better than he expected. But Sherelle, the eighth grader, she's still sad and she's still scared and she doesn't want to go back. So her mother tells us that starting Monday, they will petition the Board of Education for her to have remote learning. Jim.

SCIUTTO: Good for them. We wish them luck, Gary Tuchman. Thanks very much.

Still to come this our President Trump's scare tactics around mali-in balloting up ended in testimony today, but will an underperforming post office run by a Trump donor we should mention, do what Russians and Chinese cannot.



SCIUTTO: Continuing a theme tonight, U.S. officials charged with safeguarding the election also contradicted President Trump in testimony. This time about mail-in voting. Top intelligence officials appearing behind closed doors told lawmakers they discount the possibility of foreign actors rigging elections by way of mail-in ballots, something president Trump has repeatedly said will happen, and that is Attorney General William Barr has second it. In fact, President Trump was edit again today warning of quote, quote the greatest election disaster in history. And one of his top advisors, Stephen Miller echoed that line as well.


STEPHEN MILLER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR POLICY ADVISER: Nobody who mails in a ballot has their identity confirmed, nobody checks to see if they're even a U.S. citizen. Think about that. Any foreign national talk about foreign election interference, can mail-in a ballot and nobody even verifies if they're a citizen of the United States of America.


SCIUTTO: He's lying, keeping them honest, that's just not true. In states that already conduct mass, mail-in balloting voter I.D. is always confirmed, for instance, through signature matches or use of driver's license numbers. Also, most ballot envelopes have unique barcodes. There is another worry though, and that's the U.S. Postal Service.

The Washington Post reports that it's experiencing days longer backlogs after a top Trump donor. Now running the agency cut costs in areas including overtime pay and sorting machines. Some who work in the service fear this could hamper timely delivery of ballots. The Post also says some worry the Postmaster General could be tipping the electoral scales for his boss. That's concerning.

In a statement, the Postal Service says the mail is not slowing down. And they call the idea that the Postmaster General would make decisions at the direction of the President quote, wholly misplaced and off base. But we'll see. Here with their perspective, Tim Naftali, a CNN presidential historian and co-author of Impeachment and American History, and Van Jones, a CNN commentator and former special adviser to President Obama.

So Van, these voter fraud games claimed by President Trump and his allies that they're false. Let's say that, let's say it repeatedly. The sad fact though is that they could still have an impact on the election. And I want to note this because the DHS which is monitoring foreign threats to this election. It is noting the following, mail-in voting has already become an issue among partisan political voices, which makes it a target for threat actors to exploit. Interestingly, what the President himself is doing, tell us how concerned you are about the President interfering with the results of this election.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I mean, very concerned. Look, these tweets on this topic, become like termites, eating into the floorboards of democracy and the dangerous part is, once you undermine public confidence in the election, you undermine public confidence in the legitimacy of our government itself. That's how countries wind up tail spinning into civil wars and all kinds of stuff. You're messing with the fundamental safety and security of the country itself. And there is no reason to do that because we have mail-in ballots and absentee ballots all across the country. We've been doing it for better or for worse for a very, very long time. And there is zero evidence, no evidence that there's any, any more fraud or abuse of that system than any other system. You can't even get the absentee ballot. If you don't have the right idea. It comes directly to -- look, those of us who live in places like California. This is literally insane talk. It makes no sense at all. But it's very, very dangerous.


SCIUTTO: And not to mention the experience of the U.S. military for decades. To Tim, sitting president has never done anything like to the extent of what the President is doing right now to attack public confidence in an approaching election, which he is, of course, taking part. Compare him to the tactics of President Nixon. How do they compare in terms of scale extent and damage?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Oh, there is no cut. I mean, I'm no great fan of Richard Nixon's domestic activities. But there is no comparison. There -- we have no precedent of a presidential candidate predicting massive voter fraud in advance of a presidential election. There is no precedent for this. And there's a good reason for it. Until Donald J. Trump, we've not had someone representing a major party who is willing to subvert the institutions of our democracy for the sake of his own political advancement. This is a big deal. And no one has done this before.

SCIUTTO: It extends through a whole host of voter suppression efforts. Van, how should Vice President Biden and his campaign handle this in the run up to the election now, right, building confidence in the process, but also, you know, President Trump would lose and refuse to concede claiming a rigged election.

JONES: Well, listen that Let's hope it does not come to that. I mean, I hope that the election results are so clear and so decisive that you don't have that situation. What I do believe it's important is not just for Biden, but for all responsible political actors on both sides of the aisle to stick up for the legitimacy of our elections. You need to now be hearing from conservative voices as you're beginning to hear you need to hear from our veterans and others that are legends are sacred. They are well run, we Americans go from here around the world to monitor other elections. That's how good we are at elections. OK. And so we need to hear from the entire civil society to defend our elections from these kinds of smear attacks.

SCIUTTO: And we did to be to be clear see after the president suggested delaying the election, you saw rare or rare bipartisan rejection of that even Mitch McConnell saying no uncertain terms, this election will happen on November 3rd.

Tim, the fact is wouldn't be the first time if we get there that you'd have a contested election in the U.S. have been We don't have to be very old to remember the hanging chads of 2000 in Florida, going all the way to the Supreme Court, you know, and a very divided decision in the Supreme Court. Tell us what that taught us because you do have a real challenge here, right? You have an election in the midst of a pandemic, with more mail-in voting than you've ever had before, and maybe a system overwhelmed by it.

NAFTALI: Now, let's keep in mind that we taxpayers paid for an investigation of the 2016 election. Some people may forget, although it's only been two years that President Trump put together an effort led by Kris Kobach, former Secretary of State of the State of Kansas, investigate what he claimed were 2.8 million fraudulent votes. What did they find, nothing? So we've already in the nature of our electoral system, and our federal government did it and it's a federal government led by Donald J. Trump, and they found nothing. You don't need to go back to 2000 or 1960 to see that though we don't have a perfect system. It's one that you can trust.

SCIUTTO: It's a good point. And reminders, it's really the states and localities that do the election and they push back against the President's investigation on that false claim about 2016. Let's see if the system stands up to at this time. Tim Naftali, Van Jones Thanks to both of you.

More breaking news ahead, with Florida already battered by the pandemic part of the state's east coast is now under a hurricane warning. Details when 360 continues.



SCIUTTO: Chris Cuomo Primetime is up next at the top of the hour. We got Chris here now, Chris, there's a lot of crazy, there's a lot of lies in the news right now. I can't keep up with it. How are you going to handle it tonight?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Straight on, brother. That's what let's get after it is all about. We've learned some new things about the virus that will help people make sense of what's coming their way. Good to take that on with Sanjay Gupta.

We've learned something about the state of play in this election that really makes Michigan somewhat of a metaphor. We have the governor of Michigan to take a look at the politics of the pandemic and how it's playing out in heartland all important state.

Lastly, I have Jim Clyburn, because it was so interesting to me that President Obama took an opportunity at John Lewis' funeral to equate the danger that requires good trouble, you know, as a fighting response, not what he dealt with in the '60s. But in Donald Trump's case, today, I want to know what Clyburn thinks about that. So we'll take these all on.

SCIUTTO: It's notable. He was sharp in the hearings today with Fauci and others, Chris, thanks so much. We'll see in just a couple of minutes. That's up next.

Florida faces another threat with a hurricane warning in effect for part of the states east coast. Imagine that in all this.



SCIUTTO: More breaking news tonight if things were not difficult enough in Florida with a pandemic, now part of Florida's East Coast under a hurricane warning. 360s Randi Kaye, she is live in Palm Beach County tonight. What's it look like there?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we're watching this hurricane barreling towards us. We're in a hurricane warning zone it is supposed to hit here, or at least get close to here sometime tomorrow, which is why the state has to do this sort of this strange dance between the pandemic and this hurricane have to figure out how to manage both. So if you look at this area behind me, you can probably see some of those orange cones in the distance. This used to be a testing site, a state run testing site, they've now dismantled most of those except on the West Coast because the storm is now moving closer to the east coast. So those are now down because they're tense and polls and they wouldn't have been able to withstand this hurricane force. Winds they've taken down 33 of them in the hardest hit southern counties here in Florida.

Meanwhile, I spoke with the Palm Beach County Mayor just before coming on air with you and he said that because of the way the storm is tracking, they have now decided to open six shelters tomorrow morning starting at 8:00 a.m. They are hoping that the families who go to these will be able to social distance, they'll have law enforcement there to make sure they can. And the governor is saying that the state is ready. He says that we have enough PPE supplies, he says there's 20 million mask, 22 million gloves, 1.6 million face shields, 20,000 thermometers, and more than 9 million bottles of water. So he says we are prepared. We'll see when it gets here tomorrow, Jim.

SCIUTTO: It's going to be a big test there Randi. Thanks so much. And we do wish the people of Florida best. A quick programming note, Full Circle our digital news show returns next week. It gives you the chance to dig into some important topics, have in depth conversations. Catch it streaming live Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 6:00 eastern time at or watch it there and on the CNN app at anytime On Demand


The news continues. So I'll hand it over to my good friend Chris for CUOMO PRIMETIME.