Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Surpass 156,000; Spouse Of COVID-19 Victim Remembers His Husband; Trump: Americans "Are Dying, That's True, It Is What It Is"; 1,000-Plus Americans Have Died Per Day In 11 Of Last 15 Days; Trump Has Concerns About Nevada's Mail-in Ballots, But Now Supports Florida's Plan, A Crucial Swing State; At Least 78 Killed, 4,000 Wounded In Beirut Explosion. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 4, 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: And thanks to you for watching. Anderson starts now.

[20:00:14]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. For days, we have been pointing out that President Trump, the self-proclaimed Wartime President has avoided mentioning the fact that more than 150,000 people in this country have died on his watch.

So far, he rarely in any detail even mentions the dead. But in an interview released today, the President is asked about the daily death toll, more than a thousand Americans now dying a day, and his response -- five words. "It is what it is," he said. It is what it is.

That is our consoler-in-chief. That is his message to the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and children or friends of all those Americans who have died and all those people still reeling from their loss. It is what it is.

It would be a cruel and heartless thing to say if it came from any individual, but it didn't. It came from the most powerful officeholder in the world. The President who early on for crucial weeks, the month of February, ignored the spread of this pandemic saying it was going to magically disappear and who continues to claim as you will hear, that it's all under control. It is what it is.

That's what he said in a new interview with Axios. And there are so many outrageous and embarrassing and wince-inducing comments from the President in this interview that we want to show you a number of portions of it right now, because until you see it, you might actually think that this is a joke. You might actually think it's some sort of a skit. That it actually didn't happen.

When asked about John Lewis's legacy in this interview, he has no idea and then he talks about how Lewis didn't come to his inauguration.

His embarrassing lack of knowledge about mail-in votes is revealed. For all those conspiracy theorists out there who believe he is secretly waging a war against child sex trafficking, he once again, said about Jeffrey Epstein's former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell who is charged with six criminal counts that he wishes her well. It's the second time he's wished her well.

If this interview was on the HBO show "Veep," you would think it's too ludicrous, but it's airing on HBO on a news program and it really happened. It is what it is. That's who he is.

It is what it is. What are you going to do? A hundred and sixty thousand dead; 150,000 dead. What are you going to do? It is what it is.

I want to begin with the full exchange in which the President uttered those five words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a tremendous crowd. We had tremendous response. You couldn't even -- it was like an armed camp. You couldn't even get through. You couldn't get anybody in.

We had 12,000 people. It was incorrectly reported.

The other thing we had that nobody wants to talk about. So Fox Broadcasting, it was the highest rating in the history of Fox Television, Saturday night. It was the highest rating, my speech.

Well, wait a minute, you're saying something. That speech was the highest rated speech in the history of Fox Television on Saturday night and nobody says that.

QUESTION: I think you're misunderstanding me. I am not criticizing your ability to draw a crowd. Are you kidding me? I've covered you for five years. You draw massive crowds. You get huge ratings. I'm asking about the public health.

TRUMP: At the time -- and I cancelled another one. I had to cancel it.

QUESTION: Right.

TRUMP: I have a great crowd in New Hampshire and I cancelled it for the same reason.

QUESTION: But here's the question. You know, I've covered you for a long time. I've gone to rallies, I've talked to people, they love you. They listen to you. They listen to every word you say. They hang on your every word.

They don't listen to me or the media or Fauci. They think we are fake news. They want to get their advice from you.

And so when they hear us say, everything is under control, don't worry about wearing masks. I mean, these people -- many of them are older people, Mr. President.

TRUMP: What's your definition of control? Yes, under the --

QUESTION: It is giving them a false sense of security. TRUMP: ... right now, I think it is under control. I'll tell you

what.

QUESTION: How? A thousand Americans are dying a day.

TRUMP: They are dying. That's true. And you have -- it is what it is. But that doesn't mean we aren't doing everything we can. It's under control as much as you can control it.

This is a horrible plague that beset us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It is what it is. What are you going to do? Again, more than 156,000 dead, possibly 231,000 by November according to the latest I.H.M.E. model, record unemployment, life as we know it turned on its head, no assurances life can ever go back a hundred percent of the way it was. It is what it is.

Imagine any Wartime President actually saying that, any real Wartime President saying that. President Lincoln after the huge death toll at Gettysburg. It is what it is. Pearl Harbor bombed. FDR asked about it. Well, it is what it is.

After 9/11 President George W. Bush climbing, you know, to the top of that rubble in Ground Zero, his arm around a firefighter grabbing the bullhorn proclaiming to a nation now or it is what it is.

This man has no plan. He is reeling day to day as he has his whole life leaving bankrupt businesses behind.

More than six months into this pandemic and he has no comprehensive national plan. Just promises that something great is about to appear like P.T. Barnum, like he's always forthcoming healthcare plan. Remember that one? It was going to come and it was going to -- as soon as the Obamacare was eliminated, his healthcare plan was immediately going to take place, immediately, which is going to switch right over.

[20:05:17]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We are in the process of developing a strategy that's going to be very, very powerful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Yes, we're in in the process, July 21st, of developing a strategy and it's going to be very powerful. You know, it's been five, six months, but we're developing a strategy, and it's going to be -- it's going to be powerful.

We're still waiting for that powerful plan, Mr. President.

The only plan again, according to President Trump, in that Axios interview is to make sure that when we judge this President on Election Day that we're looking at the right metrics, the ones that he likes, not the ones that actually tell you what is happening in this country. The metrics that could embarrass him like testing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: When can you commit, by what date that every American will have access to the same day testing that you get here in the White House?

TRUMP: Well, we have great testing. We're doing and --

QUESTION: By what day?

TRUMP: Let me explain the testing. We have tested more people than any other country, than all of Europe put together times two. We have tested more people than anybody ever thought of.

India has 1.4 billion people. They've done 11 million tests. We've done 55, it'll be close to 60 million tests. And you know, there are those that say, you can test too much. You do know that, who says that?

Oh, just read the manuals. Read the books.

QUESTION: Manuals?

TRUMP: Read the books. Read the books.

QUESTION: What books?

TRUMP: What testing does --

QUESTION: I'm sorry.

TRUMP: Wait a minute. Let me -- let me explain. What testing does, it shows cases. It shows where there may be cases. Other countries test, you know when they test? They test when somebody is sick. That's when they test.

And I'm not saying they're right or wrong. Nobody has done it like we've done it. We've gotten absolutely no credit for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The manuals, the books. We've gotten absolutely no credit for it. For a man who seems to price strength and power -- have you ever heard someone as allegedly powerful and strong as he claims to be? Have you ever heard someone whine as much as this man?

It is what it is. Let me play the last portion that first exchange again because at the end, he also says something that's also telling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: It is what it is. But that doesn't mean we aren't doing everything we can. It's under control as much as you can control it. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It's under control as much as you can control it. Mr. President, no, it is not. It is not under control. And it's certainly not as much as you can control it.

An entire bloc of your voters believe that mask mandates are an affront to personal freedom, and this President has encouraged that thinking. From the moment he talked about the CDC recommendations on wearing masks, he has undercut them.

It is -- if it was anything, anybody other than a President of the United States, you would think that that's criminal.

He's out there now, even now, all of these months later, knowing full well of the death toll thus far, though, he rarely talks about it because, you know, it is what it is, what are you going to do?

He is out there now telling us that children are virtually immune. They aren't. They get the virus. They pass it on. People die. Or their lungs are permanently scarred, or they have heart ailments for the rest of their life.

It's under control as much as you can control it? That is just -- that's a lie and it's an excuse. More people wearing masks and social distancing would control it better. So with better contact tracing and testing. You've been claiming this as a under control since the beginning.

(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.

We have embers and we do have flames. Florida became more flame-like, but it's going to be under control. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Under control. That is President Trump, the same unflagging belief in only himself and saying whatever he wants to say. It's under control. It is what it is. A man who will not change.

[20:10:08]

COOPER: Just moments ago, the President tweeted himself at the Coronavirus Taskforce briefing. You can see the pictures that he has tweeted there. What he doesn't say, according to CNN, it's the first time he has met with the Taskforce at a briefing since April.

This is the President of the United States, great meeting today with the Coronavirus Taskforce in the Oval Office. Stay informed at coronavirus.gov.

First of all, does that even sound like him? That sounds like a minion just typing that out. He hasn't been to a Taskforce meeting since April. What else has he got to do that's so important? I mean, he played golf this weekend as he has virtually every weekend.

He watches cable news all the time. He watches all the shows. He tweets plenty of times. He can't go -- he can't have them all come in for a briefing? Since April? This is the first time he's been there.

A Wartime Commander. That's what he is, he says. From the photos, it looks like only three members of the Taskforce wore facemasks in the meeting. Two of them were Dr. Birx and Fauci. They're both on the outs now. So, I guess they figured, yes, you know what, why not? Let's just wear a mask. All the others -- they all want to stay in his good favor.

We're going to talk to Sanjay and other medical professionals about that in a moment. For now, we want to focus on the people that President Trump essentially dismissed. It is what it is.

The people who lost a loved one. The people heard the President say about that loss. It is what it is. David Hart's husband, Dr. Joseph Costa died on July 25th after contracting COVID. They've been married for 28 years.

David joins me now. David, I am so sorry for your loss. And I've been reading about your husband and what an extraordinary man he was and is, and if you could -- can you just talk a little bit about Joe. What do you want people to know about him?

DAVID HART, LOST HIS HUSBAND, DR. JOSEPH COSTA TO COVID-19: Yes, Anderson, thank you very much for the opportunity. And thank you for your condolences and sympathy. You know, who was Joe? This is what I want people to know about Joe.

We'll talk a little bit about his work in a second. But Joe is a fantastic uncle. He was a loyal and generous friend. He was a beloved son, an engaged brother. He was a humble, enthusiastic and lived in the moment mentor to many folks. And he was also a gay man who worked in a Catholic institution.

You know, Joe has many things. But he always did and went about his life in a very quiet, calm way. He would hate, hate that I was on TV right now talking about him, but it's all right. He'll forgive us at the end of this.

COOPER: You know, I know you've called him the bravest man you know. I mean, he worked on the frontlines caring for patients in the ICU. He had a rare underlying autoimmune disorder of the lungs. And I mean, he didn't have to.

I mean, he could have very easily said, in all good conscience, look, I have this very dangerous condition on my lungs. I can't be on the frontlines doing this as much as I want to. But he chose to do that. Can you -- I mean, that courage is extraordinary.

HART: It is extraordinary, Anderson, but let me say this. He is not the only healthcare worker who has an underlying condition and when I use the term healthcare worker, I want everybody to understand that it is not -- yes, it is doctors and nurses who are really on the frontline like they are in the trenches on the frontline.

But they are supported by housekeepers and medical technicians, and physician's assistants, and receptionists, and security guards. All of these people.

Think about the number of people that it takes to run a medical facility. All of those people are on the frontlines. It is like a warzone, trying to get into a hospital.

I mean, you go through checkpoints and your temperature is taken. I mean, so yes, you know, Joseph was the head of the ICU. He developed many of the protocols that the ICU that he died in uses, and can you imagine his colleagues, his fellow physicians and nurses, you know, after he died, they had to walk out of that room and go back to work.

They had just lost their boss and the guy who was the head of things, I mean it is astounding to me what that must be like.

[20:15:09]

COOPER: I want to ask you about what happened at the end because you mentioned that -- from what I understand, 20 of Joe's colleagues were in the room. They place their gloved hands on him as he lay dying in the final moments, and in the same ICU that he supervised.

And I know you were able to be there, which I know may sound odd to anybody else, but I mean, that is such a blessing to -- you know, there are so many families who are not able to be by the side of their loved one in that moment.

Can you just talk about that a little bit because I read something that I found extraordinarily moving that you took off your PPE, and can you just explain why you did that what you did?

HART: Yes. I mean to your point, so many people did not have the privilege that I had, and I cannot imagine going through what I went through and not being able to be in the room.

I had contracted COVID from Joe. At the time he was dying, I was just not going to not be able to touch him with my bare hands, with my cheek. So, I took everything off. I just took it off.

I know I wasn't supposed to do that. But at that point, it was what I wanted to do for him to help support and comfort him. And unfortunately, those 20 people that he worked with, his fellow physicians and nurses, as I said they had to leave that room and go back to work so they did not have that luxury.

So they had their hands in blue gloves on his body, which is a very poignant moment for me. I mean, I was holding him and I looked down the length of his body and that's what I saw. And I feel for them. They didn't have the privilege that I had.

I mean, it is -- I don't know. For everybody -- I heard the woman who spoke before me, for everybody who's been in that situation, for everybody who's lost a loved one. It's important to be there and it's important to touch somebody.

I mean, that's what's so cruel about this disease. The quarantining, the not being able to touch somebody, give somebody a hug. You know, everything is separated by PPE and plastic and what have you, and for good reason. For good, good, good reason.

COOPER: But you know for somebody to die without human touch, skin to skin. I was lucky that I was able to be there when my mom died in those final seconds and to hold her during that time. I mean, it's a life changing experience. And it's a great blessing in my life that I was able to be there.

I don't want to ask you about politics and stuff. But I mean, when you hear somebody say you know it, it is what it is, knowing the pain that you go through and that so many are going through. What is your message to people out there?

HART: Well, I think of this through the lens of can you imagine if my husband Joe walked into a room of COVID patients and said, oh, it is what it is and just shoved their beds into the corner and walked out.

I mean, I still can't process that. It is what it is. It is unbelievable. I mean, I want to say to the President, get off your ass. Drive 20 blocks and spend 15 minutes in an ICU with a COVID patient who is dying. Do that. You know, I mean --

I don't know, you know, it is -- Anderson, yes, this can be a political moment. But I believe this is an ethical and moral moment for this country.

COOPER: Well, David, how did you first meet? Can you imagine, 28 years. That wasn't even legal back then.

HART: You are really putting me on the spot, and if the lights start blinking, that's Joe. COOPER: Oh, you can tell the story that you told to like mass

audiences. You don't have to tell the actual story. Often couples have two different stories of like, you know how they met.

HART: I mean, yes, I met Joe 28 years ago, and I met him August 15th, and I have never been apart from him from that point forward.

He just exuded something. You know, the image I have seared in my head is the second day we were together. He's Italian. I did not know that at the time and I made him spaghetti, which in my world, is boiling spaghetti for 30 minutes and opening a can of Ragu and anything in the fridge goes into the pot.

He graciously ate that dinner, and as he was leaving, I don't know. In that moment I was really -- I just felt this attachment to him and I was afraid I would never see him again.

[20:20:12]

HART: And the image I have that I hold in my heart all the time is he walked out the front door to this crazy old Toyota Corolla that was 20 years old, and as he was walking to his car, he just turned around with that big beautiful smile. And he said, it's not about worrying, Dave, I'll see you tomorrow. And he did.

And, you know, 28 years is a long time.

COOPER: It's extraordinary.

HART: But it lasts for every second that I was able to be with that boy. He's a good person.

COOPER: I know this anniversary is going to be hard on the 15th and I will be thinking of you and we'll talk again. David, thank you so much. I'm so sorry for your loss, but I really appreciate you sharing some of your husband with us.

HART: Can I do one thing, Anderson.

COOPER: Sure, yes.

HART: I would like to thank the Bennington Fire and Rescue. I would like to thank the Southern Vermont Medical Center for the care that they gave me when I was in the ICU. And I would like to thank the Mercy Medical Center, especially the Sisters of Mercy for the incredible, compassionate care that their mission delivers to patients in the City of Baltimore. It's extraordinary.

And Anderson, thank you for the time and the opportunity.

COOPER: Thank you, David. And my thoughts are with you.

More ahead of the President's Axios interview and how there is one way to count the number of deaths from this virus and then there's the way that the President prefers to count the deaths. Later, the President is no fan of mail-in voting nor of our guest.

Nevada's governor joins us to talk about what he is doing with vote by mail and why it's angered the President.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:25:26]

COOPER: I mentioned the top of the program how President Trump's interview with Axios was a minefield of embarrassing, often infuriating remarks. Keeping with just those about the virus and his administration's response to it, this is what he said about how you count deaths and cases.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The point is because we are so much better at testing than any other country in the world, we show more cases.

QUESTION: The figure I look at is death and death is going up now. It's a thousand a day.

TRUMP: If you look at death --

QUESTION: Yes, it's going up again. Daily death.

TRUMP: Let's take a look at some of these charts.

QUESTION: I'd love to.

TRUMP: We're going to look.

QUESTION: Let's look.

TRUMP: And if you look at death.

QUESTION: Starting to go up again.

TRUMP: This one. Well, right here, the United States is lowest in numerous categories. We're lower than the world. We are lower than Europe.

QUESTION: In what? In what?

TRUMP: Take a look. Right here. Here's case deck.

QUESTION: Oh, you're doing death as a proportion of cases. I'm talking about death as a proportion of population. That's where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, et cetera.

TRUMP: You can't do that. You have to go --

QUESTION: Why can't I do that?

TRUMP: You have to go by -- you have to go by where -- look, here is the United States. You have to go by the cases. The cases are -- QUESTION: Why not as --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Joining me now, our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Hotez is also working on a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Hotez, you heard the President characterizing the numbers. Does that make sense to you?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF THE SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, it doesn't really. You know, he's having a lot of trouble getting his arms around the scope of this problem.

First of all, let's look at what's really going on. We'll be at 160,000 deaths, probably by the end of this week. Anderson, that's 160,000 times the story we just heard in your interview.

I mean, people losing their spouses, their parents, their brothers, their sisters. It's just absolutely devastating and the deaths -- there's no end in sight to these deaths. We will soon be going up to 200,000 deaths by September-October. Institute for Health Metrics says 230,000 deaths by the end of October. We could easily be at 300,000 deaths, double the current number, by the end of the year with no interest or curiosity about how to contain this virus when we know we can do it.

All of these deaths are preventable, and we just cannot get any movement out of the White House. And I just can't understand why we don't move forward on this. Instead, we see the sort of cherry picking of data, generally totally irrelevant to the real situation.

COOPER: And Sanjay, I mean, the President again today, doubling down on this, you know, this claim that the cases are rising because of increased testing and if we stopped testing, then there wouldn't be so many cases.

And when we looked at the testing numbers he was rattling off, it's still not as much as the country needs.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not and you know, you don't get coronavirus from doing a test. Right? It's like people have said, you don't get pregnant from doing a pregnancy test. It's to try and find people who are infected, isolate them, quarantine their contacts and from a public health perspective, bring the numbers down.'

We've never gotten to that point. You know, right now, testing is sort of surged into places that are hotspots to try and identify people in those places and then moving to another spot in the country.

It's kind of like putting pressure on wounds as opposed to addressing the underlying issue. So there are objective ways, Anderson to look at whether or not we are

testing enough. The positivity rate, a term that a lot of people now know, basically out of a hundred people, how many came back positive? If that number is five or below, that gives you an idea that you're testing enough?

And we haven't gotten to that low a positivity rate. So we're not testing enough and it's not accomplishing what it needs to accomplish in terms of turning this pandemic around.

COOPER: Sanjay, can you just explain the difference between, you know, deaths per case and deaths related to the population?

GUPTA: So, you know, I mean, in this case, there's an IFR -- infected fatality ratio, which is basically the deaths out of people who have been infected. So you take a look, it's not on the right side of the screen now, but I did the calculations earlier, that's roughly around three percent.

But if you start looking at per population in the United States, we're about 480 people die per million in this country. That's based on the overall population of the country.

But the thing is, Anderson, you know, I think this is just different. This is a pandemic, as Peter was sort of alluding to, I mean, we -- the whole world is affected by this and so we are less than five percent of the world's population and we make up 20 to 25 percent of the world's infections. Twenty to twenty five percent of the world's deaths sadly as well.

So, I mean, however you want to look at it: absolute numbers, relative numbers, whatever it maybe, whatever makes sense to you, but the fact of the matter is that we're doing an awfully poor job in this county especially compared to the rest of the world.

[20:30:31]

COOPER: But also Dr. Hotez I mean, the countries we are in league with in terms of competing for the number one spot, which we're in, is -- or Brazil and I think India is now in third. I mean countries that have under resourced health systems. I mean, in Brazil, the healthcare infrastructure is nowhere near what it needs to be.

PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: No, no, absolutely. I mean, this is crazy. And the President, yes made some comment of the fact well, the high numbers due to the historical issue that we had in New York back in March and April, I just wrote the numbers down.

Right now, in the last seven days, the U.S. is number one in terms of number of new cases over a seven day period, 421 cases. We're also number one in terms of deaths, 7,500 deaths over the last week. So as was pointed out, 1,000 deaths per day we exceed India, we exceed Brazil, we exceed everybody else.

And what I'm so angry about is the fact that there is still no good faith effort to do something about it. Certainly at the federal level, when we know that's what has to be done. And how does this end? We can't just let this go on now for another four or five months anticipate.

COOPER: Yes. And Sanjay, I mean the fact that, you know, the White House suite president at a White House Task Force meeting in the Oval Office, I mean, he hasn't attended one since April.

GUPTA: He hasn't attended one since April. And, you know, even if he's talking to the task force members, which I know he has, we've done some reporting on this. He's not listening to them. I mean, you know, that's the thing is that, you know --

COOPER: In fact, he's attacking me, I mean is now Dr. Birx and obviously --

(CROSSTALK)

GUPTA: Yes, it's sort of befuddling, because at first I thought is he -- does he just not know? And therefore he's saying things that are demonstrably wrong. But that's not the case. I mean, he is being told by taskforce members today you saw an actual meeting in the Oval Office.

He said he got briefed by Dr. Fauci. You know, Anderson, before our last town hall, but, but then he's saying things that are just diametrically opposed to what he's hearing. So, I don't get that the meetings don't seem to make much of a difference.

COOPER: Yes. Sanjay, Dr. Hotez. Appreciate it. Thank you very much.

More breaking news ahead, President Trump won on the attack again today against Nevada, and as new legislation expanding mail-in voting, well, at the same time, he's now magically says mail-in voting is great in his home state, his new home state of Florida where they just so happen to have a lot of Republicans who vote mail-in. So all of a sudden Florida mail-in Nevada, not so much. We'll talk to the Nevada governor, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:37:07]

COOPER: More breaking news tonight, President Trump has lashed out again and Nevada's governor for pushing legislation that greatly expanded the use of absentee balloting in the state election in Nevada.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: In Nevada where you have a governor, he said, let's just send out millions of ballots and the post office could not be prepared. I haven't spoken to the post office about it. But I don't know how they could possibly be prepared.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: And the general election I think they had state election. The President yesterday called that legislation a coup and threatened to file suits and somehow stop it. Nevada's Governor, Steve Sisolak. I spoke to him just before air time.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on-camera): Governor, the mail-in voting legislation that you signed. Explain what it does and how it impacts voters in your state?

GOV. STEVE SISOLAK (D-NV): What it does is it was extremely important to myself and the legislature. First off, I apologize. Thank you for having me on. Give me an opportunity to explain this.

What this is going to do is make it so that folks our constituents don't have to choose between staying healthy, and exercising their right to vote. It's extremely important to me that everyone who wants to vote has that opportunity and we make it accessible for them. Right now, obviously, we're in the middle of a pandemic, I don't anticipate that much changing by the time we get to the election, but what will happen is everyone will have a ballot mailed to them, they will be able to fill out that ballot, send that ballot back and have it count in lieu of having to stand in line and vote in person.

COOPER (on-camera): If somebody sends it in. What happens if they go to the voting booth to try to vote?

SISOLAK: You can't vote twice, there's a cross reference on there. So if they mail it in, then they can't vote in person, you can only vote one time. Now you can fill out your mail-in ballot and if you choose to bring it in, because some people just have a tradition of wanting to come every election and vote in person.

You can bring your ballot and turn it in and that's fine or you can take it to a mailbox and build voter mail again. But everybody is limited to voting one time. It's totally safe.

We had the same situation in our primary we had an all mail-in primary, that everybody had to vote mail ballot mail to them, they got to mail it in or if they chose to show up on election day, they could show up at their polling place and vote but this just gives you another opportunity to exercise your right and still maintain your safety.

COOPER (on-camera): No surprise, President Trump attacked you on the move tweeting, in illegal late night coup, Nevada's clubhouse governor made it impossible for Republicans to win the state. Post office could never handle the traffic of mail-in votes without preparation using COVID to steal the state. See you in court. I don't know if you want to respond to that.

SISOLAK: Well, I don't know what a clubhouse governor is. So I can't respond to that part of it. What we did is we took public comment for this people had the opportunity to make comments. There's no attempt to steal the state. They're not whether the Republicans win is going to matter who the most popular candidate and the candidate that we feel is going to be most effective moving into 2021 That's who's going to win the state in Nevada.

[20:40:02]

COOPER (on-camera): The hypocrisy that President Trump's, you know, attacking you on this is he's now encouraging people to mail-in votes in Florida, because he was lobbied by Florida Republicans who said look, Florida, Florida Republicans, they have a very strong mail-in voting turnout. And all his attacking the mail-in votes.

The all -- the mail of voting system was going to damage votes in Florida. So he's now saying, well mail-in voting in Florida is fine. It's these other places that have a problem. He also went on to say that he'll be suing in Nevada and then we'll quote probably file something tomorrow. As far as you know, has the campaign or the Republican Party taking any legal action yet?

SISOLAK: No, when I did check with my legal representation, if anything had been filed prior to recording on this, you know, being with you. And no, we have not been served with anything. I don't know if we actually will frankly, sometimes the President makes these, you know, threats and then doesn't follow through on them. But like I say my priority is to make sure that the voters have every legitimate legal option to vote. I think that this gives them that. It offers that to them.

And I'll give you an example. My mother, I mean, she's in her early 90s. She hasn't because of the COVID. She hasn't been out of the house in over three months now. I mean, she feels much more comfortable filling out the ballot and having it sign it and I'm confident that a lot of other folks are going to be the same way whether they're senior citizens or folks that would just feel more comfortable mailing it in, which is what we're here for.

COOPER (on-camera): The legislation, your state will relax some restrictions on who can legally handle and submit ballots for other people, something that Republicans have pointed to is something that could lead to fraud. Obviously, there isn't widespread, you know, voter fraud.

That's another thing that the President has been claiming and his own commission had to disband because they didn't find anything. I mean, is that a valid concern? And what steps are you taking in regards to this specifically to ensure it doesn't happen?

SISOLAK: Absolutely. It's not a valid concern. You know, what we've got is, folks, for example, if they're at home and they had their next door neighbor because they can't walk to the post office box, the mailbox or can't get in their car and drive to the post office and have it mailed in, if they give it an extra neighbor and say, would you mail this in for me? That's that ballot is totally safe. There's no problem whatsoever with that ballot.

I mean, I think they're trying to create a scenario here that doesn't exist to try to raise people's suspicions about a process. We've had mail-in voting, you know, absentee ballots going on as long as I can remember, in the state of Nevada, we've never had any problems. And I certainly don't anticipate any problems this time around.

And I'll guarantee the post office, that there is a Florida, the same as opposed to office in Nevada, the United States Postal Service. I mean, they have the same regulations. So if they can handle it in Florida, they can certainly handle it in Nevada.

COOPER (on-camera): Yes. Governor Sisolak I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SISOLAK: Thank you so much for having me. Have a great day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy is no stranger to the President's attacks against mail-in voting. Yesterday he attended a closed door briefing on election security on Capitol Hill. He joins me now.

Senator Murphy. Thanks for being with us. You're the governor of Nevada there about the mail-in voting program the President's tax. Do you have any concerns when it comes to voters mailing in their ballots and again, this is the backdrop is President Trump now says mail-in voting in Florida is fine and dandy.

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Yes, there just aren't these sort of secret bands of vigilante absentee and mail-in voter fraudsters, they don't exist, so the President sort of making up a problem that isn't real. And, you know, it's kind of ironic is that, you know, he says that he's trying to stop Democrats from stealing the election.

Well, in fact, it's Republicans, by and large, who vote by mail. And if you look at who tends to use these systems in states where you have an option, it tends to be, you know, more rural voters, it tends to be older voters. And it tends to be that when you count the mail-in votes, Republicans do much better than they do when it comes to the in person machine votes.

So frankly, if it was really do about Democrats trying to, you know, sort out the rules to our advantage. We wouldn't be pushing mail-in voting. We're pushing mail-in voting because it's just the right thing to do, because we just want to make sure that everybody can vote safely.

COOPER: I want to play with his latest comments about voting by mail- in Florida. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Florida's got a great Republican governor, and it had a great Republican governor. It's got Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott, two great governors. And over a long period of time, they've been able to get the absentee ballots done extremely professionally. Florida is different from other states.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: I mean, the U.S. Postal Service is the same in Florida as it is in other states. Do you have any knowledge of that there's some secret sauce in Florida's mail-in voting system.

MURPHY: No, there's no difference in the data. I mean, there is not a mail-in voting fraud problem in states With Democratic governors, just as there is not a mail-in ballot fraud problem in states run by Republican governors. This is a made up crisis that the President is creating.

[20:45:11]

And again, it doesn't actually seem to be designed in order to give himself a better chance at reelection. As you mentioned, you know, Florida Republicans are begging him to stop this because he in fact is discouraging Republicans who are the ones who historically vote by mail. It seems that he is just trying to create any argument as early as possible to delegitimize the election and to perhaps contest the results when he loses.

COOPER: When it comes to election security, I mean you've been a part of briefings on Capitol Hill. I think the latest one being yesterday. What are you seen or heard that you can talk about in terms of foreign interference?

MURPHY: Well, we've received briefings yesterday, briefings that have been given through written documents as well. Some members of the Senate over the last week, and they're very concerning. There are foreign governments that have active interference operations underway in this country.

And there are narratives and specific actors promoting those narratives that are not reliable or not to be trusted because of their connection to foreign sources. And I am very hopeful that this administration and our intelligence services will make that information public, because I'm not sure why you do all of this research and all of this intelligence to sort out whether they're foreign agents acting in an American election if you're not prepared to tell the American public who those foreign agents are.

So, I think this is a really critical next few weeks, the administration has to let the American public know what they know.

COOPER: Senator Chris Murphy, I appreciate your time. Thank you more than that, to come.

MURPHY: Thanks.

COOPER: Just ahead. The latest in the massive explosion, at least killed 78 people, wounded 4,000 others in Beirut. Well President Trump's just said about it. That's been now being contradicted.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: There was an explosion so powerful in Beirut today that according to the U.S. Geological Survey are registered as a minor earthquake. Take a look.

Reportedly at least 78 people are reported dead and according to the Lebanese Health Minister 4,000 are wounded. President Trump said today that he had talked with quote his generals about the blast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: This was not a some kind of a manufacturing explosion type of event. This was a -- seems to be according to them. They would know better than I would but they seem to think it was a attack. It was Obama subcon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Late tonight three department of defense officials told CNN there is no indication of an attack as the president referenced. Ben Wedeman joins us now from Beirut. Ben, despite what the President said do we know what caused the explosion?

[20:50:07]

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do understand, Anderson that there is the explosion occurred in a warehouse where according to the Prime Minister, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were being stored that is a substance that had been taken from some sort of contraband shipment and now how the actual blast occurred is still a mystery.

No one is here. Of course, there always are many suspicions Lebanon being Lebanon, that somebody was behind it, but no official statement has been made suggesting that this was an attack. I mean, blast was something I've never seen before.

And you mentioned a minor earthquake. I'm less than a mile from the port and it felt to me like a major earthquake and of course, our Bureau is in shambles. As are most of the homes in Beirut, where windows have been blown out. People wounded in the street, we're being treated by ordinary citizens trying to provide some sort of assistance.

But as you said, more than 4,000 wounded, more than 70 dead and these numbers are really just preliminary on the local television stations. Reporters do live shots outside of the hospitals, are reading the names of people who are lost, and others who have been located in the hospitals to try to just sort of spread the information around because Lebanon is at the moment in a state of economic collapse.

It's struggling with the coronavirus outbreak. The country is essentially bankrupt into dealing with a crisis of this magnitude crises. Because we're talking about an economy in freefall, a county struggling with a coronavirus iceberg. It is seen the number of new cases tripled since the beginning of July.

And now this has really, really put an intolerable strain on a country that has suffered for so long. Lebanon is now -- at least Beirut is in a state of emergency. It's been declared a disaster zone. There's concerns now, as a result of this explosion, the Beirut's port through which around 70% of the country's food and most of its food is imported passes. The explosion happened right next to Beirut's main grain silo.

So this is not just an explosion that is injured hundreds thousands of people and killed dozens, it's goes well beyond that. But to reiterate, Anderson, no one here as of yet talking about this as being some sort of attack.

COOPER: I mean, Beirut which has seen so much, so much loss over the decades. It's an extraordinary city. Ben, I appreciate you being there and I hope everybody around you is OK and CNN office there will obviously have more information about the death toll tomorrow.

Up next, more perspective on the Trump White House in the politics the coronavirus. I'll talk with CNN's Paul Begala.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:55:41]

COOPER: We're having trouble reaching Paul Begala, we had problems with the shots, so we apologize for that. We would hope to talk to Paul about his new book, or we'll do that later this week.

Want to give you a quick reminder, don't miss Full Circle. It's our digital news show that gives us the chance to dig in some important topics and have in depth conversations. We were -- we're all until March 19th was the last time we had done it then we stopped during COVID just technically became too complicated, but we are back starting yesterday.

You can catch it streaming live Monday, Tuesday and Friday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern at cnn.com/fullcircle or watch it there anytime. And on CNN app at any time On Demand. You can also get alerts via the CNN app on every episode.

I want to hand things over to Chris Cuomo. See what he's working on, the news continues. Chris is here for "CUOMO PRIME TIME".

Chris?