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Interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Trump Doesn't Refute False Birther Theory About Senator Harris; Interview With Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Trump Doesn't Refute False Birther Theory About Sen. Harris; Trump, WHO Frequently Politicizes Pandemic Tells Biden To Stop "Playing Politics" With Virus; Super Bowl Champion Opts Out Of NFL Season; Chiefs RB Damien Williams Opting Out Of NFL Season. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired August 13, 2020 - 20:00   ET


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Like mother, like daughter, a trail blazer and maybe all the way to the White House. Nic Robertson, CNN, London.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And thanks for joining us. Anderson starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Good evening. It was clear when Kamala Harris was named as the Democrat's vice presidential nominee that fringe elements would attack her based on her gender and her race.

What is clear at this hour is that it's not going to be just fringe elements doing so, and perhaps that should not be a surprise.

Today, President Trump, who pushed a baseless, disproven, and racist conspiracy theory about the nation's first black President, Barack Obama, is now proving a baseless, disproven and racist conspiracy theory about the nation's first black female vice presidential candidate, suggesting she might not really be an American citizen at all.

Birtherism it seems is back. The whole thing started today when the widely mocked essay was picked up by conservative judicial activist, which was then retweeted by the Trump campaign senior legal adviser.

And just so we're clear, Kamala Harris, like Barack Obama, was born in the United States, which makes her a citizen. She was born in Oakland, California.

And just a short time ago, President Trump tried to fan the flames even more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) QUESTION: Can you definitely say whether or not Kamala Harris is

eligible or even meets the legal requirements to run as Vice President?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, I just heard it today that she doesn't meet the requirements. And by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer. I have no idea if that's right.

I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for Vice President. But that's a very serious --


COOPER: A very serious charge. That's very serious. The President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, doesn't know if that's true or not, but it's very serious and a very talented lawyer.

There's nothing serious about it. Or frankly, based on that, about him. It is pathetic.

What's very serious is a President of the United States playing with and echoing what are racist tropes that have been used for centuries, trying to raise doubts about otherness.

This kind of racist slime has been going on for centuries. They did it with Chinese people who were brought here to work on railroads, they did with Irish immigrants and Italians, Africans who were enslaved. You name it. Making people other than. They're other than American, other than patriotic, other than law abiding, other than just like you and me.

Whether it's because of the color of someone's skin, their gender, who they love, their religion, whatever it's based on, it's nothing new. And yes, it's worked in the past. And that is what this President is hoping again.

Now, as I said, this is not the first time he has done this, of course, because he was a candidate, we all know the birtherism he did against Barack Obama.

I talked to then citizen Trump about those baseless charges against the President back then, but always characterizing the claims he would say always other people are saying.


TRUMP, THEN CITIZEN TRUMP: Well, I've been told very recently, Anderson, that the birth certificate is missing. I've been told that it is not there and it doesn't exist. And if that's the case --

COOPER: Who told you that?

TRUMP: That's a big problem. I just heard that two days ago from somebody. COOPER: From your investigators or --

TRUMP: I don't want to say who, but I've been told that the birth certificate is not there. It's missing.

COOPER: You've said repeatedly that you have investigators in Hawaii looking into the President's birth certificate. You said that you're looking into it very, very strongly. That's a quote.

In another interview, you said that your investigators quote, "Can't believe what they're finding." We've had a team in Hawaii talking to everyone from the State Health Department to the school where Obama's mother went, to other families who were in the hospital at the same time when he was born. None of them say they've been contacted by anyone working for you.

TRUMP: Well, maybe they are not saying and maybe, they haven't contacted the same people, Anderson. There's a lot of people in Hawaii.

And frankly, it's hard to believe that he just doesn't just issue his birth certificate. It would be so easy to do if in fact, he has one. And a birth certificate is not a certificate of live birth, which is a much, much lower standard as you know.

COOPER: Can you name even one person who your investigators have talked to? Just one.

TRUMP: I don't want to do that. It's not appropriate right now.

COOPER: You can't say anybody who they talked to?

TRUMP: It's just not appropriate. You wouldn't do that either if I asked you that same question. I mean, it's just right now would not be appropriate. It's too soon.


COOPER: It was as ridiculous then as it is now. He never told anyone who the supposed investigators talked to because there were not any investigators there. He didn't shell out any money to actually send people to Hawaii.

Donald Trump, it was a lie, just like this latest example.

Joining me now to discuss the President's attack on Harris is Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders, I mean, I cannot believe that we're even here talking about birtherism.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Well, we're not. And Anderson, we're not. This is so absurd. It's just another racist lie.

It's an embarrassment to the people of our country. But what Trump is trying to do right now among many other things, is deflect attention away from the reality facing working people in this country. He wants us to talk about all of that stupid stuff. But the reality today in America is there are many millions of people

who are unemployed, people who are worried about being able to feed their kids, worried about being evicted from their homes, pay their bills, have healthcare.

And Trump will deflect attention from that, because among other things, he has refused to sit down and negotiate with Democrats about extending the kind of benefits that we provided four months ago.


SANDERS: He wasn't there. McConnell is not there. I guess, Mr. Meadows now, his chief negotiator, is on vacation.

What we have got to do is extend that $600.00 a week supplement for workers all over this country who are unemployed. We've got to continue and expand on that $1,200.00 check that people desperately needed.

We have got to provide healthcare to all of our people, provide funding for cities and states and schools who are desperately in need of that funding. But Trump won't talk about that. That's not what he does. He'll try to deflect attention.

But this is just another racist, stupid attack from a President who must be defeated in November.

COOPER: I mean, the other thing he doesn't want to talk about is COVID-19 and a pandemic which has killed more than 160,000 Americans. Who knows the actual number, and the actual number of people who have actually been infected with this virus. The President hasn't attended -- he attended one Taskforce meeting since April. He tweeted out pictures of it the other week.

But he's not -- there is no national plan. We're still talking about testing. We're still talking about swabs. We are still talking about PPE and contact tracing.

SANDERS: Anderson, tens and tens of thousands of people have died unnecessarily because of the irresponsibility of this President, who in fact does not believe in science.

He doesn't believe in the science of climate change. He doesn't believe in the science of epidemiology.

So what we have had from day one is a President who has ignored the severity of the crisis. This is a President who has attacked and humiliated doctors and scientists who are working on our behalf.

This is a President who held a rally, a political rally indoors in Tulsa without social distancing, without masks and people got sick, some died as a result of that rally.

This is a President who has done nothing to make sure that our doctors and nurses have the personal protective equipment that they need. Unbelievable. That doctors and nurses still do not have the masks, the gloves, the

gowns that they need, and we have today the highest per capita death rate in terms of COVID of any major country on Earth.

And state after state, the situation is getting worse. People have no idea what to do in terms of whether or not kids should go to school. Total disaster. Total irresponsibility. No national plan other than to attack the C.D.C. and doctors and scientists.

Those are the issues he wants to run away from, but we are not going to allow him to run away from those issues. And by the way, let's be clear, we will never get a handle on the economic collapse unless we deal with the pandemic. They are directly related.

But right now, what we have got to do is focus on those important issues.

COOPER: The other thing he is making an attack on is the U.S. Postal Service, which began a while ago, but it has taken on greater importance and resonance given the question of mail-in voting.

SANDERS: Well, what this is about is not complicated. Trump may be crazy, but he is not stupid. And he looks at polling, he is behind. And I think what he and his friends believe that if they can suppress the vote, make it harder for people to vote, they have the better chance to win the election.

So we've been talking about the Postal Service now for months and months and months, and he's been say thing and saying that. Today, you have got to give him credit. He was honest. He was upfront.

He is saying we want to defund -- he wants to defund the Postal Service.

COOPER: Yes, let me play what he said so viewers can hear it and then we'll talk about it, because I know you tweeted about it. So, let's just play what he said.


TRUMP: Yes, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots.

Now, in the meantime, they aren't getting there. By the way, those are just two items. But if they don't get these two items, that means you can't have universal mail-in voting because they're not equipped to have it.

Now, if we don't make a deal, that means they don't get the money. That means, they can't have universal mail-in voting. They just can't have it.



COOPER: I don't know if you realized he was saying that out loud, but I mean, he said it out loud.

SANDERS: Anderson, I don't have -- you're asking me to comment? I don't have to comment. He just said it. What he has just told the American people -- and listen, you know, I am a proud conservative, not everybody out there agrees with me. I got it. There are moderates. There are conservatives.

Okay, I am a proud progressive, but you know, if you believe in America, if you believe in democracy, you do not support a President who is literally trying to destroy the Postal Service because he does not want people in the middle of a pandemic to vote.

You remember some months ago, Anderson, they had the primary in Wisconsin. I had my reservations about that. People went to the primary, some people got sick as a result.

People are nervous about this virus. Poll workers -- people who work in the polling places are nervous about the virus.

Right here in Vermont, just the other day, we had our primaries. Voter turnout was very, very high. Overwhelmingly mail-in ballots. It worked just fine.

But what Trump is attempting to do, I'd make it clear, is to suppress the vote by destroying the Postal Service, by making it harder for people to fill out and send mail-in ballots.

COOPER: Do you think that's going to work?

SANDERS: We'll do everything we can to make sure that it doesn't work. I've called for the resignation of the new Postmaster General, who in his own way through regulations is trying to sabotage the Postal Service.

But clearly, it seems to me pretty obvious that if there's a decent- sized turnout in this election, Trump loses. And I think Trump understands that and that is why he is going to do everything he can to suppress the vote, including trying to destroy the Postal Service.

COOPER: Senator Bernie Sanders, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you.

COOPER: I want to bring in chief political correspondent, Dana Bash; senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson and former White House Communications Director for President Obama and CNN political commentator, Jen Psaki.

Jen, let's start with you, you worked for President Obama. You saw the birtherism conspiracy theory play out firsthand. I wonder what your thought was when you hear this now salvo from President Trump.

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, in 2011, this is what racism sounded like and it's what racism sounds like in 2020, Anderson, and I don't think we should be confused about that. Back in 2011, it was before Twitter was moving fake news and fake

information as quickly as it is or Facebook and all of these social media platforms.

But you know, back then, it took us about a month to come out and we actually brought the long form birth certificate to the Briefing Room and handed it out to reporters.

I think the lesson from that is it is important to punch back, not just the Biden campaign, they have done that. But everybody needs to push back and punch back on how this is basically a racist lie.

COOPER: Nia-Malika Henderson, I mean, you know, what the argument often is, by even addressing it, you're giving it more oxygen. What do you think of, you know, what one does in a case like this?

I mean, I think people have watched what happened on -- with the birtherism with President Obama. Maybe it's a different time, I don't know.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I mean, it didn't really stop with the conspiracy theory at all, and studies about conspiracy theories actually show the more information you give the people who believe conspiracy theories, the more they actually believe the conspiracy theories.

So listen, I mean, we know that President Trump is a conspiracy theorist. We know that he likes to traffic in racist stereotypes about different groups. You know, maybe it's a little surprising that this comes so early.

Shame on "Newsweek" for giving this birther racist lie a platform. It used to be a great publication. It seems not to be.

COOPER: I was unaware it's still in business frankly.

HENDERSON: Right. Yes. Good point.

PSAKI: There may be some boycotts now. We'll see.

HENDERSON: Yes, and so, I mean, we know that this president wants to make Kamala Harris sort of the top of the ticket, and tell, particularly to white voters, pay no attention to the nice white man that is standing next to Kamala Harris, but be very afraid of Kamala Harris.

That is really what is at the root of these ideas about otherism and these racist conspiracy theories about birtherism. It's not questioning whether they're or not these people were born, it is really trying to question their allegiance to America, say that they're un-American, say that they have a sort of a dual allegiance and that they are ultimately a threat.

We know that's the way he wants to talk about African-Americans, immigrants obviously. And in this specific case, Kamala Harris. Say that she is radical, say that she is, you know, somebody who is

angry. Another racist and sexist trope that's been used for centuries against African-American women.

That's what he is doing, and he is hoping that it plays well with white voters.

We see in polling that white voters are very comfortable with Joe Biden in a way that they weren't comfortable with Hillary Clinton. So he has got to really try to regain some of that support among these white Evangelicals, white working class voters and white seniors that he is losing, at least, right now in the polls.


COOPER: Dana, I mean, it is so obvious when you look at President Trump, who uses -- likes to use the word strong and powerful. His very strong statements, his very powerful statement. It was a strong -- you know, he uses it all the time.

If a woman is, in his opinion, strong and powerful, they are nasty and angry, particularly if they are a black woman, they are nasty and angry and full of hate.

Whereas if it's a white man, I mean, at least if it's President Trump, it's powerful and strong. It seems pretty obvious. Have you heard how Senator Harris's team is feeling about this? Is this something --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, her own sister has already tweeted about it, Anderson, and she tweeted, "There are no gradations of birtherism. You're either in or you're out." This is from Maya Harris, who isn't just Senator Harris's sister, she is one of her chief advisers. They're extremely close personally and also strategically and politically.

But I just also want to second what Nia was saying about "Newsweek." But also, this may be controversial, but I really don't care at this point, I mean, as somebody who has sat in that White House Briefing Room and sees it as a place where you really have to try to get to the truth, that a reporter asked the -- teed up the President with this question is unacceptable.

Because it was -- it was obviously a softball for him to get to -- allow him to say what he clearly wanted to say and that is to bring all this back up.

And lastly, I just want to say one other thing that Nia said about studies showing that the more information you give to people who believe in conspiracies, the more they believe the conspiracy.

I was there in 2008 at John McCain's Town Hall, the now infamous Town Hall where a woman told him that Barack Obama was a Muslim, and so on and so forth. And he said, no, ma'am, no, ma'am.

I went up to that woman afterwards to talk to her and she could not be convinced. I wasn't trying to argue with her, I was just trying to arm her with the fact that Barack Obama is a Christian, not even saying that being a Muslim or a Christian is bad or not, it's just a fact, and she wouldn't believe it.

She was just -- there was no convincing her, and that was back in 2008 before, as Jen was saying, the internet was as it is now. And frankly, the dark parts of the internet was as much of a cesspool as it is now.

And so that is why it is understandable that people like Jen, people like -- others on the Biden team, and more importantly, those of us in the media need to put a stop to it immediately and then possibly move on and not allow ourselves to get distracted.

COOPER: Well, Jen, it was interesting because in the briefing today, a reporter asked the President what he was going to do for kids who depended on school lunches in districts where schools were not going to reopen, and was there a plan to try to help families of kids who -- this is the meal that they depend on, which stands for hundreds of thousands of people.

I mean, for a lot of people in this country, and his answer was, well, of course. He had no answer, so what he did -- I mean, I watched him very carefully, he focused on well, of course, our policy is we want the schools to open. And that's all he talked about.

He had nothing to actually say because there is no plan. Just as there is no plan or a national plan for improving testing or a national plan for PPE or anything.

PSAKI: That's exactly right, Anderson, and as we all know, this is a comfortable place for President Trump to go back to this kind of racist, you know, falsehoods and throw them out there to his base and just for people to kind of wander around about because he wants to change the subject, he wants to change the subject.

So we're not talking about his failures on COVID, the global recession that he has -- you know the recession that people are struggling through in this country, and we can't let him.

So I think it's fair to say that we're not going to convince everybody that, you know, this is a conspiracy they shouldn't believe in. But there is a responsibility I think we all have, the media has, so thank you to you and Dana and everybody for pushing back on this inaccurate reporting or inaccurate information, but just to call it what it is, and go back to talking about important issues, like coronavirus and COVID, and the recession and people who don't have jobs.


PSAKI: Because what Trump is trying to do is change the subject and go back to his comfortable place, which is to kind of get his white nationalist friends excited about his candidacy.

COOPER: Nia, it's -- you know, it's so interesting to me that no one ever in real-time admits to racism. No one ever in real-time says, oh, yes, okay, this is racist. Yes, okay. I mean, everyone says oh, no, it's not here, it's not me. It's always

in retrospect looking back, oh, people 20 years ago, yes, that was clearly racist. We're watching this in real time.

This is actually happening now. It happened back then. People came to see oh, yes, okay, that is kind of based on racist tropes of what they did to President Obama on the birth certificate.

This is happening again, and people can choose to pretend it's not racist. But it clearly is the foundations of this -- this line of attack. I mean, we have seen this play out over centuries.

HENDERSON: That's right. Listen, that's why it has such power and that's why it works so well. I remember when President Trump got elected on Election Night, somebody texted me and said racism is undefeated.

Because we know that that is what the base is in many ways of what Trump's run in 2016 was. He played on white anxiety. He played on white fear of a rising America that looked different from the America of the 1950s.

He played on this idea that women were gaining power, and so now, in Kamala Harris, he has this other figure, right, who is African- American, who is Asian-American, who is a woman, and so he is saying to these white voters, particularly white male voters who have a lot of anxiety about that, what does it mean to cede power to an African- American woman?

It is a very uncomfortable feeling and thought that they have. And if you look for instance at Kamala Harris cross examining white men, Jeff Sessions for instance, him saying under that withering questioning, that she was making him nervous.

COOPER: Oh my God, he was like clutching pearls and fanning himself saying, you're making me -- I'm nervous.

HENDERSON: Yes, exactly. This is because white men are not used to being challenged in this way by an African-American woman, by an Asian-American woman. That is what Donald Trump is trying to conjure.

And it happens, I think very easily, because this is the ground work in which America was built. These racist ideas, these sexist ideas about women, about African-Americans, and so this is well trod territory and we know this is where he lives and feels most comfortable.

BASH: And the one thing I'll add real fast is that the people in Biden world I've spoken to since this happened tonight, nobody has been surprised. The only thing that they are surprised about is that it's happened so quickly.

COOPER: Yes, Dana Bash, Nia-Malika Henderson and Jen Psaki, thank you.

Just ahead, the latest on the coronavirus. We'll discuss the stark and even grim comments from two top government scientists, the C.D.C.'s Dr. Robert Redfield. We will see how long you gasp after the comment he made today and Dr. Anthony Fauci about the country's track record so far combatting the pandemic. The President is not going to be pleased with either of them and what the road ahead may look like.

And later, Damien Williams, a running back for the Super Bowl champion, the Kansas City Chiefs joins us to explain why he has chosen for the safety of family to opt out of the NFL season. It's a more complex decision you may think. We'll talk to him ahead.



COOPER: I want to continue our discussion about President Trump intentionally fanning the flames of the baseless accusations against Democratic Vice Presidential candidate about her citizenship. She's American. Here again is what he said when asked about an op-ed that was retweeted by his campaign's own senior legal adviser.


QUESTION: What can you definitely say whether or not Kamala Harris is eligible or even meets the legal requirements to run as Vice President?

TRUMP: So I just heard that -- I heard it today that she doesn't meet the requirements. And by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer.

I have no idea if that's right. I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for Vice President, but that's a very serious charge.


COOPER: Joining me now is Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. You know, if the President was as strong and powerful a man as he often says he is, he could have said, you know what, of course she's an American. She was born in Oakland, California. She's an American citizen.

We're going to run against her and we're going to beat that team based on, you know, we have better policies for this country. That's not what he did.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Well, Anderson, that might have been if we had someone in the White House who was leading this nation and leading this nation as a President for all of this nation.

But can you imagine 165,000 dead from COVID-19, the failures of this administration, many of whom are African-Americans and Latinx, and yet in the midst of this crisis, he chooses to participate in nasty, racist, distracting comments about an American citizen, who happens to be a black woman.

And it isn't three days or four days, but less than almost 24 hours of her being selected by Vice President Biden, making much of America happy and the world taking notice of the selection of Senator Harris as the vice presidential nominee.

And here we have a President engaging in the lowest level of activity, the same thing that he did in the birther movement, and he never -- he never stopped utilizing the fact that he believed that President Obama was not a citizen. He never really cleaned it up.

Well, I'll tell you, like Fannie Lou Hamer, Anderson, we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. And I don't think the American people are going to fall for this again.


COOPER: You know, President Trump did this with the numbers of people who have died of COVID. He said a different line of attack. But he said, the numbers aren't real, essentially, he said, you know, some of these states, maybe they're juicing the numbers. They're misrepresenting this. Some of these people died of other things. They're not keeping records correctly. It's politicized. He undercuts that people who have died. I'm surprised he hasn't sort of raised the idea. Well, maybe a lot of those people aren't American who have died, the 160,000 in this country, maybe just people have died in this country, but they're not really Americans, and therefore, it might not matter. I mean, this is an argument which has been, it's not even an argument. It's just a -- it is a racist based trope that has been used for generations against all kinds of people in this country, anybody who has different than the dominant, you know, society at the time, whether it's, you know, against gay people, against Asian people, against black people against Latinx people, against Catholics. And it, you know, Irish immigrants and Italian immigrants, anybody who has come to this country and is easy to view as other.

JACKSON LEE: You know, Anderson as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee every one of those discriminatory factors or impacts I have seen in my tenure, you are absolutely right, to denigrate, to provide false hoods or to provide stereotypes and to incite people to go against these groups, whether they're Irish or Italians or whether they're African-Americans or Latinx or LGBTQ or women or the sitting senator from California, Kamala Harris, getting in the gutter and promoting institutional racism.

You know, I asked the question of General Barr just about two weeks ago, did he understand instantly the existence of institutional racism, a systemic racism that permeates our society and that the Justice Department of all the agencies needs to be part of the solution. He could not grapple get his hands around the idea that it existed. And now the President just continues to foster these divisive troves as you have said, but it's so ugly. And it's ugly, because here is someone as Vice President Biden have offered themselves for public service. They're not on the entertainment stage. They offer themselves to serve this nation as he has alleged to be doing.

But we have 165,000 people did. And this President wants to distract us. He's going right back to the playbook that we had to live with so long during President Obama's leadership as president. At least it went 165,000 dead Americans because of a disease under his tenure, and at least we had a pandemic office that could have responded and at least there were scientists that the President responded to. So, here we are. I'm hurt Anderson. I really am. And I know that there are women of all colors across America wondering why. And so, I will just ask this administration to run their campaign and run it on issues. And let's see who wins but this not tear people apart through racist accusations that are absolutely wrong.


JACKSON LEE: It's wrong. It's not true.

COOPER: Well --

JACKSON LEE: She's an American citizen. I certainly think there are a lot of women in this country who know what it's like to be denigrated at work knows what it's like to be pushed aside. No one know what it's like to have somebody like Donald Trump say some things like this about them, behind their back or in the workplace. So, we'll see what impact it has.

Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee, I appreciate your time.

JACKSON LEE: Thank you for having we need a healer in this country. Thank you.

COOPER: Ahead, what the CDC director admitted today about coronavirus. President Trump is not going to like this message. The comments from him and Dr. Anthony Fauci. Next.



COOPER: During President Trump's news conference today, told reporters that unlike Joe Biden his approach to coronavirus is called guided by science. If that is true, then he should hear what two top scientists who are on his Coronavirus Task Force said about the coronavirus. None of it positive. The director of the CDC Robert Redfield came out harshly about how well prepared the country was for this pandemic.


ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: This is the greatest public health crisis if it this nation in a century. We were underprepared. And we need to owe it to our children, grandchildren, that this nation is never underprepared again for public health crisis.


COOPER: Also casting doubt today, Dr. Anthony Fauci, with the grim prognosis for where this country is headed in terms of caseload.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you look at other parts of the country, this is the thing that's disturbing to me, is that we're starting to see the inkling of the upticks in the percent of the tests that are positive, which we know now from sad past experience, that that's the predicted that you're going to have more surges. So, unless we all pull together to get that down, and we don't have disparities in some states are doing this and some states are doing that. We're going to continue to have this up and down. So that's the thing that I'm concerned about, because I believe we can, we have it within our power to be able to get that down. Bottom line is, I'm not pleased with how things are going.



COOPER: I want to bring in our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and former acting CDC director, Dr. Richard Besser, who's now president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Dr. Besser, you heard Dr. Redfield, Dr. Fauci. Do you agree with them?

RICHARD BESSER, FMR ACTING CDC DIRECTOR: Yes, I think both assessments are right. We weren't prepared for this pandemic. And I and what we've done so far, I think, gives us a sense that if we continue on this course, the fall, the winter moving forward, is going to be worse than with what we've experienced so far.

COOPER: Sanjay, you know, to hear Dr. Redfield talk about how unprepared this nation was for the pandemic and then hear the President talk about how well he believes it was handled. Obviously, those things do not correspond with each other.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, diametrically opposed sort of points of view here. I mean, you know, I've been thinking about this a lot, Anderson. And, you know, that thing about it is that I remember back in mid-March, when we decided to go into this sort of stay at home mode, you know, slowing the growth. You and I talked about it a lot at that time, and there were fewer than 5,000 people in the country who had been infected at that point, and fewer than 100 people who had died. And, you know, it was concerning enough because of what was happening to basically say, people should largely stay at home at that point. And now we are, you know, well over 5 million infected, so 1,000 fold increase in infection rates, and then more than 160,000 people have died. So 1,600 sort of increased fold in deaths. And we are starting to open things up again, what have we structurally done differently? That's the question.

So we closed when it was that small and growing at that pace. Now, it's a bigger, bigger number growing at a faster pace, and we're opening back up. I think that that's sort of what they're sort of reacting to at this point. Are we getting ourselves into even more trouble as we start up and things back up?

COOPER: Dr. Besser, and Dr. Fauci talks about how when you see an uptick in the positivity rate, data shows that a surge as soon to follow, we have enough data to know how the cycle works. Even armed with that knowledge, there's no plan in place. Can you just explain why that? Why that sort of that metric of seeing positivity rate rise? Why that is a harbinger of something bad?

BESSER: Yes. So, you know, when you look at that rate, that's telling you of all of the people who are being tested, what percentage of them are testing positive, the World Health Organization says you should shoot for a number that's below 5%. Here in New Jersey, it's below 2%. Now the numbers are down low. But when you look in some states, some of the states have been seeing these recent resurgences. In Georgia, it's 11%. In Texas, it's 20%. That tells you a couple things, it tells you that you're probably not doing enough testing, because you want to be doing enough testing that you're picking up really mild cases. And you're only going to know you do that, if that number gets down really, really low.

The other thing is that as that number starts to go up, it means that you're losing control of this. And if that number is not really low, it's very hard for public health to do the work of testing, tracking, isolation and quarantine. And it's even worse than that. Because if you're not breaking that number down, that percent positive number, by race and ethnicity, you're going to be missing major problems that may be taking place in certain parts of, of your population. And in the southwest, largely Latino populations being hit really hard in many parts of the South and the Northeast. Black Americans being hit really hard. So, you need to pay very close attention to that because it will start to rise before you see the increases in hospitalizations before you see the increases in death.

COOPER: Sanjay, Admiral Giroir had a call with reporters down, I want to play part of what he said.


BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH, HHS: A strategy that focuses on business litigation, wearing a mask, watching your distance, washing your hands. Quick testing of anyone who is symptomatic in any of their contacts with a baseline surveillance of some percent of the population is probably the winning strategy. Not only do we not recommend this strategy of testing everyone on a frequent basis, but I think it could instill a false sense of security.


COOPER: Does that make sense? Yes. I mean, it sounds like an explanation for why there's a failure with testing and kind of putting lipstick on a pig because Director Besser was just saying, more widespread testing actually helps you get a more accurate reading of the viruses progression and also even on the positivity rate, if you're tested a greater range of people, you have a greater sense of an accurate positivity rate.

GUPTA: Yes, you know, unfortunately, you know, I knew and I've spoken to Admiral Giroir quite a bit about this. I think unfortunately, this is trying to cover up and justify I think what has been frankly abysmal testing in this country and I hate to say it, but I think we've not been doing adequate testing since the very start. We haven't gotten ahead. [20:45:07]

I mean, the idea is still that he's saying basically mostly, we're going to just test symptomatic people. Look, I mean, we've known for a long time since middle February that, you know, 40% probably of people who are caring coronavirus are totally asymptomatic, 50% of the spread is happening among people who are either asymptomatic or pre- symptomatic, meaning they haven't developed symptoms yet. If you're just testing symptomatic people, primarily you're missing those people and frankly, I think that's what's crushed us in terms of viral spread in this country. We're not even picking, you know, there's a lot of people right now who are watching who are carrying the virus feel fine and have no idea that they have it because we're still not doing enough testing.

So, I just I don't understand how we're justifying this. Still at this point. Show you in New York real quick where you guys are, you know, if you look at what happened in New York and see how the case numbers actually came down over time, you should look as well if we can show these graphs superimposed, there you see the numbers and how they went down, and superimposed what testing was doing during this time. And you'll see that testing was going up. That was what brought these numbers down. And testing has stayed up. Right, still testing a lot. Despite that there are a few cases to Rich's point earlier. That's what's brought the positivity rate down to, I think 1% or even lower now in New York. That's not happening in other places in the country. And Admiral Giroir still saying, hey, look, you know, we don't need to increase testing. I think is a huge problem, especially as we're going into the fall.

COOPER: Sanjay, Dr. Besser. Really appreciate it. Thank you very much, to be continued.

GUPTA: Yes, thank you.

COOPER: He played the Kansas City Chiefs their first Super Bowl title in 50 years. Now, Damon Williams is opting out of the upcoming season over concerns about COVID-19 and the health of his family, particularly his mom will talk to Damian Williams, next.



COOPER: Minutes from now, the first high school football game of 2020. Anywhere in the nation will kick off in Utah. The stadium will only lead in 25% of its capacity. On the college level the head doctor for the NCAA warned today that in his words, we're moving into very troubled waters right now. Three major college football conferences plan to start their seasons next month. In the NFL, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says he will allow fans into watch home games though he hasn't said how many. The Washington football team won't allow any spectators but while the quiet -- and the question of safety is dividing the sports world, the top infectious disease doctor is offering a pretty stark analogy.


CARLOS DEL RIO, NCAA COVID-19 ADVISORY PANEL MEMBER: We have a serious problem. I mean, I feel like the Titanic we have hit the iceberg. And we're trying to make decisions. So what time should we have the band play? I mean, we need to focus on what's important. What's important right now is that we need to control the spires. And you know, not having full sports this year in controlling this virus to me would be the number one priority. So my advice to colleges, my advice to organizations that I've talked to is if you cannot do it the safely, you shouldn't do it.


COOPER: Running back Damien Williams at the Super Bowl champion, Kansas City Chiefs is opting out of the season in part because his mom is fighting stage four cancer. And he's concerning might exposure to the virus that he plays. And Damian joins us now. David, thanks so much for being with us. First of all, most importantly, how's your mom doing?

DAMIAN WILLIAMS, RUNNING BACK, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Oh, she's great. She's all smiles. She's happy. I'm all.

COOPER: She's there right now.

WILLIAMS: Yes. All right, man.

COOPER: Well give her my best. You called her your rock, your rock and that she's always been there for you. I just think it's awesome. You I mean, this is such a tough choice for somebody to make in your position. I mean, you know, the money the, you know, your career. Explain the decision how you went through it?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, first thing first and I'll call my mom and you know, we sat on the phone for you know, just a brief moment. And, you know, she really would just encourage courage me know, just not believing yourself believing your decision. Whatever decision is, you know, I'm there for you.

COOPER: And was it? How much of this was related to COVID? How much of it was, you know, just wanting to be with your mom, as you said, because she's been there for you?

WILLIAMS: Right, you know, of course, you know, with everything going on as far as COVID and just taking my mom, spends a lot of time with me, especially throughout the season. And then, you know, when the cancer, you know, hidden knowledge is everything just started, you know, going and going in my head to where, you know, that the day is like, no, with everything going on and people passing, you know. I have a couple friends who, you know, their parents, you know, passed away from the COVID. So it was like, no, this is a perfect time just to, you know, spend time with my mom and be there for her.

COOPER: Yes. My mom died last summer with cancer and she was 95 and it had an amazing life, but I was -- I was I'll be there the last two weeks, but I would give anything to even have been there for another, you know, week or two. Or, you know, there's so many things, you know, I just, I miss on that. So I just think it's such an awesome thing that you are doing. But clearly, everything that's ever happened to you came from your mom. I mean you're a really strong tough guy, your mom, that must all be from your mom.

WILLIAMS: Man listen, my mom, only parent, you know, raise four kids. I have older sister and two younger brothers, and I see my mom do it all. She can juggle it all. So you know, right now, you know I'm taking the pain away, you know, I'm going to be the juggle. You know, I'm going to handle it all right now.

COOPER: The -- are you worried about your teammates? I mean, you know, you're obviously, you know, close to people you're playing with.

WILLIAMS: Right. Now of course, you know, then they you know this is a sticky situation with the COVID and, you know, the guys, you know, I'm excited, you know, for the season you know to you know to keep going and I want to see, you know, go through no healthy and everything. But nothing they, you know, those are the guys, you know, I fought every day with. So, you know, there there's a concern for them in their health.

COOPER: Coming off the Super Bowl win and I mean your incredible success last year assuming there's a season. I mean are you going to watch the games from home? Is it going to -- how's that going to feel?

WILLIAMS: Well I'm of course going to watch but it --

COOPER: It might be painful to watch I don't know.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Most definitely will be, you know, that I just feel like, you know, it's something I had to do, you know, something I'll prepare for and something I'm ready for is going to be hard, you know, to watch but no, I'm cheering it on guys, I'm here.

COOPER: Well, I mean, I got to just as a, you know, as a human being, it's, we all make you know, choices and we have to make tough choices. It's a really tough choice when you've dedicated yourself to something as you have with football, to, you know at this stage in your career to take a step back for something as important as family and as your mom, you know, it's not a it's not an easy decision to make. And I just think it's a really, it's just a sign of your own strength that that's the decision you make.


WILLIAMS: Oh, yes, most definitely. I think I've had to miss out on football one time when I was in high school. And that's because we had to transfer schools, I had to sit (INAUDIBLE) but that was, well, 30 years ago.


WILLIAMS: So. So, yes.

COOPER: Yes. Is I mean, it's COVID something you talk to your teammates about? I mean, I'm not saying it, you know, not individuals, but just in general. I mean, is it something that you all are discussing? Because it's certainly I mean, on the people I'm working with, you know, we talked about it all the time.

WILLIAMS: Oh, most definitely. You know, I taught the guys you know, like I said, I'm not in the building. I don't know what's going on and everything. So but I taught the guys, you know, I feel like the NFL is on the right direction, you know, trying to keep guys, you know, healthy and safe you know, throughout it all So, like I said, I'm excited just to see you know, the season start. And I'm praying that it finishes. Yes.

COOPER: Well, Damian I really -- I wish -- your mom's name is Verlina. Right?

WILLIAMS: Yes, Verlina.

COOPER: Well, please give her my best. There's a lot of people out there watching right now who are sending prayers and thoughts to her and to you and I wish you all the best.

WILLIAMS: Yes, sir. Please. Thank you.

COOPER: All right, you keep -- keep going. Keep going with your mom there.

Ahead, had breaking news. Appreciate it. Damian. President Trump going well yet again into birther mode, stoking baseless, new attacks on now Joe Biden's running mate Senator Kamla Harris. David Axelrod, Reggie Love joining us, that's coming on.