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President Touts Success Over COVID-19 In Latest Press Conference; Michael Caputo Takes Two-Month Leave of Absence to Deal With Lymphatic Condition. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 16, 2020 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Thanks so much to all of you for joining us.

AC 360 with Anderson starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Good evening, the President of the United States now considers it praiseworthy if fewer than 240,000 Americans die of the coronavirus. That's just some of what he said at this press conference late today.

His comments come after and in a reaction to testimony from some of his top public health experts contradicting him on mask wearing and the timing of a vaccine.

It also comes after the highest single day spike in deaths in more than a month according to the data gathered by people at Johns Hopkins University. There are 1,293 new reported COVID fatalities yesterday, almost 200,000 killed so far.

Yet late today, though one single person whose words and deeds might have prevented so many people from dying tried to gaslight us all to seeing the last six months as a great success.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you look at what we've done and all of the lives that we've saved, I'm going to ask that a graph be put up, and now it's up.

This was right at the beginning. This was our prediction that if we do a really good job, we'll be at about 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, and we're below that substantially.

And that's despite the fact that the blue states had had tremendous death rates. If you take the blue states that were at a level that I don't think anybody in the world would be at -- we're really at a very low level.


COOPER: If you take the blue states out, which -- I mean, interesting about that that is really a window into how this President views this country. There are his states and the blue states. Ignore the deaths from the blue states, things look great. I mean, that alone is stunning or should be if we weren't numb to outrage by now.

The President noted tonight, though, that death might have reached into the millions had the administration done quote, "not so good a job." So 239,999 is what? Victory now for him?

A great job as he said at last night's Town Hall in ABC when asked if he'd ever wondered about doing anything differently. "I think, we did a great job," he said.

George W. Bush was raked over the coals for telling his F.E.M.A. Director he was doing a heck of a job during the worst of Hurricane Katrina. That was for patting someone else on the back.

This is an American President patting himself on the back while presiding over the greatest single loss of life in the shortest amount of time ever in this country.

To him because it is useful to him with an election coming up, he is already put that behind him.


TRUMP: We're going to be okay and it is going away. And it's probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccine. It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it's going to go away a lot faster.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: It would go away without the vaccine?

TRUMP: Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time, it goes away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: With many deaths.

TRUMP: But I really believe we're rounding the corner and I believe that strongly.


COOPER: Again, he said that on the day that nearly 1,300 deaths were reported. And today well, the President also contradicted the sworn testimony of the C.D.C. Director on mask wearing.

But before we play that, here's what Dr. Redfield, the C.D.C. Director actually said.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We have clear scientific evidence they work and they are our best defense. I might even go so far as to say that this facemask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine because the immunogenicity may be 70 percent.

And if I don't get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me, this facemask will. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: The sworn testimony of the nation's top public health official, a member of the President's Taskforce, I think he still is, I mean, you'd hardly know if he is these days because he's nowhere to be found at any presidential briefing, the same with Dr. Birx or Dr. Fauci, you know, actual doctors with experience dealing with virus pandemics.

The President's go-to doctor now is a radiologist and he was there at the President's press conference today. Here's what the President said about Redfield's testimony and I'm quoting now, quote, "As far as the mask is concerned, he made a mistake," meaning Redfield made a mistake in what he said in his testimony.

He said he spoke to Dr. Redfield about it later today, but instead of recounting what the doctor told him or allegedly told him, listen to the President now saying what Dr. Redfield might hypothetically say, when asked, which is not the same thing at all.


TRUMP: I believe that if you ask him, he would probably say that he didn't understand the question, because I said to him, I assume those two questions the one question which we covered and the mask question, and I was inaccurately covered because I was on with George last night, George Stephanopoulos and I enjoyed it.

I think people enjoyed it. I got -- you know, a lot of people said very good things about the show. I hope they did well, but they said a lot of good things about the show, but they always cut my sentences off. You know, they cut it off.

On masks and masks are problems, too, and I talked about the masks have to be handled very gently, very carefully.

I see that in restaurants that people with masks and they're playing around with their mask and they have it -- their fingers are in their mask, and then they're serving with plates.

I mean, I think there's a lot of problems with masks.



COOPER: I hope they do well, by the way. That means he hopes ABC did well with the ratings of the Town Hall he was on.

The stuff he said about masks being no good is because food service workers sometimes touch their faces, aside, Dr. Redfield has just tweeted showing no sign he agrees with the President's cover story that he misunderstood the question.

Remember, the President said, well, I think if you asked him he would say he misunderstood the question. This is Redfield's latest tweet. "The best defense we currently have against this virus are the important mitigation efforts of wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing, and being careful about crowds."

Okay, so clearly Redfield is not saying, oh, yes, it was a mistake. I totally agree now with what the President said. He doesn't want to say he disagrees with the President because, I guess he wants to keep his job.

The boss is back to holding indoor rallies. Of course, where nearly the only face coverings to be seen are on his human backdrops. But for the cameras, the President, as he has now said several times, including after this event that he is not worried, because he is kept at a distance from the people that he is bringing together, some of whom will just by the law of probability get infected, get sick, and sadly, some may die.

If Dr. Redfield isn't giving much ground on the question of face covering, members of his own agency now appear to be introducing him to the underside of a very big boss over what he said today about the timing of a vaccine.


REDFIELD: If you're asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life? I think we're probably looking at third -- late second quarter, third quarter 2021


COOPER: So Dr. Redfield said that under oath to a Senate Committee today, and then the President said this.


TRUMP: No, I think he made a mistake when he said that. It's just incorrect information. And I called him and he didn't tell me that. And I think he got the message, maybe confused. Maybe it was stated incorrectly.

No, we're ready to go immediately, as the vaccine is announced, and it could be announced in October could be announced a little bit after October. But once we go, we're ready.


COOPER: Do you remember what he said about his healthcare plan when he was running? He was saying how soon as Obamacare is done and gotten away with then his healthcare plan is instantaneously, it is going to shift. It's going to instantly shift. There's not going to be any delay, it's going to be like, one two, you're going to blink and suddenly you have new healthcare coverage.

That's essentially now what he is saying about this vaccine that it's just -- it's going to be out there everywhere. It's not going to take -- so there's not going to be preferential, you know, first to first responders and people who are on the frontlines of this and then to others.

No, it's going to be nationwide all at once. It's not going to take, you know, six months.

Not long after the President said that, laying down the political line, a C.D.C. press officer named Paul Fulton, Jr., but not Dr. Redfield it should be pointed out toed the President's line.

He told CNN and I quote, "In today's hearing, Dr. Redfield was answering a question he thought was in regard to the time period in which all Americans would have completed their COVID vaccination, and his estimate was by the second or third quarter of 2021. He was not referring to the time period when COVID-19 vaccine doses would be made available to all Americans."

No comment from Dr. Redfield in there. If this is -- if it all has a certain odor about it, just consider that just a few weeks ago, the administration leaned on the F.D.A. Commissioner to tout an unproven COVID treatment in such glowing terms that he was later forced to apologize publicly.

Consider that the President has probably touted other drugs which the F.D.A. then authorized for emergency use. Consider that the President is again declaring victory on the pandemic as thousands are still dying.

We'll talk about all of that tonight. Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Eric Topol, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute near San Diego join me now.

Dr. Topol, I mean, do you buy what the President is saying and apparently what the C.D.C. is now saying that Director Redfield, you know, misunderstood the question under oath, and he's been working with viral infections and infectious diseases for more than 30 years.

I mean, for any criticisms of how he has run the C.D.C., he does have experience actually with pandemics.

DR. ERIC TOPOL, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, SCRIPPS RESEARCH TRANSLATIONAL INSTITUTE: Well, good to be with you, Anderson and Sanjay. I think the key here is that Dr. Redfield was telling the truth and the truth is, we're not going to have vaccines if we do this right until the end of the year, beginning next year to start.

And he also was, you know, straight on the mask, which of course is essential and we're going to be wearing masks with the vaccines over the course of the next year.

So, here we have a direct collision and it's really unfortunate. It's like a circus act in the midst of an important pandemic. That this is just the last thing we need.


COOPER: So when you say -- when you say about the vaccines, can you just explain? I mean, the President is saying, look, you know, we could get a vaccine in October, his radiologist says -- mentioned something about an Emergency Use Authorization, and then them just getting the vaccine out, you know, via the military to everybody in America. Does it work that way?

TOPOL: No, it can't work that way, unless there's just preposterous shortcuts that are taken. If you just do the math, these two big trials, the Pfizer and Moderna trials haven't even completed enrollment.

Then they have these participants who have to get a second dose, which takes you about another three or four weeks, and then we're looking for infections endpoint. There are various interim analyses and the data analyses haven't been published.

But to get any reasonable read out, Anderson of a strong efficacy signal and that's even without as much safety a surveillance we'd like to see, that would take you easily to through November, no less December. So anything short of that --

And by the way, the F.D.A. Vaccine Advisory Committee is not even meeting until October 22nd. So that is predicated on there being a trial stop prematurely, which is the last thing we'd like to see here before that time.

So the timeline that President Trump has given is just unrealistic. It doesn't compute.

COOPER: Sanjay, you know, we're talking about this timeline the President has given, I'm wondering what you make of his timeline, because again, I think it was the radiologist today who was saying -- his radiologist was saying that, I think he made mention in passing of emergency use authorization.

Is that something that they going to go forward to try to speed this up? And does that mean -- I mean, doesn't it -- will it still go through Phase 3 and all boxes checked?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, an authorization is not an approval, so this is an unusual circumstance, Anderson.

First of all, there's not really been a vaccine that's really been emergency use authorized before. There was an anthrax vaccine that sort of had that designation, but for different reasons, so this would be an unusual situation.

What they're saying is they would complete Phase 3 clinical trials, but this would still be an authorization. The vaccine maker could apply for approval later.

What that means is that, you know, as Dr. Topol was saying, they're going to look for some evidence that this is effective and they're going to see if there's more people getting infected in the placebo group versus the vaccinated group and they are going to wait a certain amount of time, and I think they say 42 days or so is when most adverse effects occur. So they're going to wait a certain amount of time before they say,

this is now authorized. So that that's where they sort of get that timetable.

But I just want to tell you, Anderson, I talked to Moncef Slaoui, who is the Chief Adviser to Operation Warp Speed. Last week, this exact issue came up, how much vaccine is going to be available when? Take a listen to what he said.


DR. MONCEF SLAOUI, CHIEF ADVISER, OPERATION WARP SPEED: If it is shown efficacious in November or in December, we don't have enough vaccine doses. We'd have a few million in November and maybe 10 million to 20 million of each in December. That would be enough to vaccinate certain populations, start vaccinating certain population, but not the whole population.


GUPTA: So you get an idea there, Anderson and you know, essential workers, there's about 29 million people that have that designation. People can be considered higher risk. Here is 75 million to 76 million. So there's a lot of people who would be sort of in that first higher risk group before you'd even be able to think about the general public -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Dr. Topol, you also had the President undermining Dr. Redfield's position on masks today. You mentioned this, you know, earlier just -- I mean, looking at the Redfield tweet on masks, there seems to be no ambiguity in what he is saying on how important it is to wear one.

TOPOL: Well, he made it very clear how essential masks are. And the fact that this is still being challenged is just lunacy. This is our main protection right now, and as I mentioned, even as we go through the vaccination period, which is going to be put to question by all this uncertainty and potential shortcuts, but we still need to use masks because remember that the vaccines don't render mucosal immunity, that is you still could harbor the virus, it protects from the illness.

So we could actually get more carriers in the in the vaccination phase. A lot of people don't recognize this. The other thing, of course, is that these trials are not powered for severe infections or moderate infections. The two big trials that we're talking about are really looking into what it could be even mild infection.

So the protection that they're affording, this endpoint that would be used to stop them, we wouldn't want to see that stop precociously.

These are big trials, each of 30,000 or more participants, and we'd like to see them go to completion. But no matter, the masks are going to be essential and we're talking about not just for a few weeks, but for many months ahead.


COOPER: you know, Sanjay. I mean, it's undeniable that when you put together the most recent stuff the President is saying, it is so politically motivated. It's so clear the timetable that he is discussing is all based on the election.

You know, he keeps talking about, you know, we could have an answer in October. We could you get a confirmation on a vaccine that works in October, and then it'll be very quickly, so he is sort of hinting that it's going to be nationwide as soon as the election is done and over as long as there's something in October, maybe it'll be late November, early December.

He doesn't mention anything about winter coming, and the concern about a huge rise, you know, telling Stephanopoulos last night and he said this before about you know, we're turning the bend. You know, we're turning the bend into a winter.

Already Europe is seeing, you know, a big resurgence. That is the concern here as well. I mean it's so blatantly obvious the timelines, why he is rigging them the way he is.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, you can't disentangle anything from politics nowadays. There's no question about it.

I will say that, you know, this idea that they're moving really fast, yes. Unfortunately, the backdrop of an F.D.A. that, you know, authorized -- emergency use authorized hydroxychloroquine without any evidence, exaggerated the data on convalescent plasma is what a lot of people are worried about.

I think the bigger point though, is that even if you start to get some evidence of efficacy, that effectiveness from this vaccine, you know, by the end of the year or maybe even before the election, it doesn't really mean anything for the general public.

I mean, this is still you know -- that's the concern is that people think it's going to switch, just flip on a switch at that point. As Dr. Topol was saying, we're still going to need to wear masks for a while. It's going to take a while to build up immunity in the country.

And, you know, we obviously want to make sure this is a safe and effective vaccine. So, all those things still have to happen.

COOPER: Sanjay and Dr. Topol, appreciate it. Thank you.

Next, the departure for the moment of a top health official in a video that apparently led to it. Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci joins us.

And later CNN investigates what the administration touted as a real game changer on testing, whether it's living up to that billing.


[20:11:12] COOPER: Today, the Department of Health and Human Service's top

spokesman Michael Caputo took a two-month leave of absence to deal he says with a lymphatic condition. We wish him well on that.

He has also talked separately about his mental health in the wake of a video that he recently posted on Facebook. It's been taken down. Here's part of what he said on that video.


MICHAEL CAPUTO, H.H.S. SPOKESPERSON: They -- these people cannot -- cannot -- allow America to get better nor can they allow America to hear good news. It must be all bad news from now until the election.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, that is sedition. They are sacrificing lives in order to defeat Donald Trump.

Ladies and gentlemen, that's sedition. It's also -- now, call it what you will. But when they let somebody get sick and die, there's one word for that.

The partisan Democrats, the conjugal media and the scientists, the Deep State scientists want America sick through November. They cannot afford for us to have any good news before November because they're already losing.

Donald Trump right now, if the election were held today, would win.


COOPER: Joining us now is former White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci. Anthony, thanks for being with us. You know, whatever Michael Caputo is going through personally and I sincerely hope he is okay, he is a human being with a family.

It is stunning that the head of communications for an agency with a huge number of employees and a huge budget and handling the pandemic would be spreading conspiracy theories about people in his own agency.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Oh, Anderson, it is very hard for me not to feel pain watching that. I mean, you and I are both empathic people.

So there's a lot of things going on in there. I feel bad that he's going in that direction. I think what happens is when it's corrupt at the top, it spills over into everybody and this is going to be a case study in that.

And so, you know, the President is undercutting the C.D.C., the head of the C.D.C., Dr. Redfield, but he would praise something like what Michael Caputo is saying, and so that's what happens. You're getting this sort of hornet's nest of sycophants descending in on the President.

And so the reason why he undercuts people is that he has figured out that a very large group of the population is listening to him and listening to him only.

So if he is lying about the science, they're accepting that lie. If he is lying about the economy, well, they'll accept that lie.

And so when Dr. Redfield is out there under oath telling the truth that the mask is as important as the vaccine, he's got to undercut him because his only hope to win the election is to secure that base and increase the participation in that base, and so that's why doing that.

But my heart goes out to Michael Caputo. I hope somebody has a deprogramming intervention with him, shake some sense to him and brings him back into the real world and they sort of de-materialize Trumpism on November 3rd.

COOPER: But you know, I mean, the President is now increasingly sending messages to conspiracy theorists, you know, even his -- you know, I think he used the term pedo to describe Vice President Biden, which is something that the QAnon people -- I mean, that's a clear signal to QAnon people that they are accusing everybody of being pedophiles and all Democrats.

I mean, it is frightening that the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories has reached this point. I mean, you know, the President is saying that, you know, this candidate who won the Republican primary and is probably going to end up serving in Capitol Hill who is a QAnon conspiracy theorist. She is the future star of the Republican Party.

SCARAMUCCI: For now, she is a future star for now if Trumpism is defeated at the ballot box and the Republican Party is reconstituted, obviously, there's going to have to be a lot of healing in that party.

But people are going to have to have a reckoning, you know, it's just like any time a demagogue has taken over a party, a government, the haze that takes place after that demagogue is gone. And then the re- knitting of that society.


SCARAMUCCI: I mean, one of the things that's happened here that I'm astonished by is the loss of national purpose by my fellow Republicans. I mean, the lack of civic virtue and the lack of patriotism.

They're sitting around stewing. They know that what the President is doing is wrong. They know that he is lying about the science, but they're locked into this Gordian knot with him and they're not exactly sure how to get out of it.

And so the QAnon stuff will go away a little, but it will persist after the defeat of Donald Trump. And so we've got a systemic problem going on in the country right now, Anderson. It's going to require honest leadership, transformative leadership and servant-based leadership.

You know, the President wants to rule. When we set the founding documents up, it was about service and public service. But the President isn't thinking about it as service, he thinks about it as ruling and this is why we're in such a dangerous situation.

This is why George Conway and I participated in that documentary "Unfit" so that we could lay the case out for people because there are moderates that are watching other networks that are buying into that he is better for the economy.

He is not better for the economy. He wrecked the economy through the mishandling of the truth and the mishandling of the science with COVID-19.

And the great irony is that Joe Biden will be way better for the economy and way better for the stock market than Donald Trump.

COOPER: You really believe that?

SCARAMUCCI: He is just -- hundred percent.

COOPER: I mean, there are a lot of folks that are worried about, you know, who have large investments in in the stock market and, you know, potential capital gains, you know. There will be higher taxes likely under Joe Biden, if he gets elected.

SCARAMUCCI: So listen, I'm running still about seven and a half billion dollars. The likelihood of a tax increase going through the economy this anemic is virtually zero.

I'll take everybody back to the 2008-2009 transition from George W. Bush to Barack Obama, no tax increase until the economy healed and the Federal Reserve maintained the same policies.

Moreover, the Vice President will offer more stimulus to lower and middle income people, which will help the economy tame down the economic anxiety and the last thing and the most important thing, Anderson, he is not a systemic threat to the institutions of the democracy of the United States.

I challenge anybody on Wall Street that thinks that Donald Trump is the right solution if he continues to destroy and undermine the democracy and the rule of law.

Everybody that's a commercial transactionalist knows that the integrity of this system is way more important than the ideas, the ideology or the policies.

COOPER: That's a good point. Anthony Scaramucci, I appreciate it. Thank you.

SCARAMUCCI: Thank you. Good to be here.

COOPER: President Trump's remarks at today's news conference claiming a vaccine is coming soon in a way dovetailed with some of what he had to say last night at a Town Hall, it is where he once again talked about his long-promised new health care plan. What he said about that, next.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: President Trump's remarkable put down his own CDC director today seem to be off the same playbook he used in a nationwide town hall audience last night. A vaccine is coming sooner rather than later, he said. And that long promise healthcare plan of his is actually no kidding really just around the corner coming very soon.

Listen to this woman expressing frustration with the President over the serious issues she has had with her healthcare. And then listen to the President told George Stephanopoulos about that healthcare plan.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It cost me with co-pays, I'm still paying almost $7,000 a year in addition to the co-pay, and should pre existing conditions which Obamacare brought into -- brought to fruition be removed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With that -- please stop and let me finish my question, sir. Should that be removed within a 36 to 72-hour period without my medication, I will be dead.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: You've been promising a new healthcare plan. We interview -- I interviewed you in June of last year, you said the healthcare plan would come in two weeks. You told Chris Wallace this summer would come in three weeks, you promised an executive order existing --

TRUMP: I have it already.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it's -- you've been trying to strike down their existing condition.

TRUMP: I have it already and it's a much better plan for you, and it's a much better plan.


COOPER: Joining me now to discuss CNN political analyst and New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman and CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borgia.

I mean, it's hard not to almost admire the sheer brazenness of, I mean, this the lies at this point. But the idea that, oh, I have it in my pocket, I'm just not going to show it to you. I mean, Gloria, we heard the President last night said, you know, the healthcare plan is ready. He has promised that time and time and time again, the idea that he's not going to show it right before an election. But it's so good, though, but not going to show it. I mean, does that make any sense other than a political sense?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. No, it doesn't even make any political sense. Honestly, because we had a good healthcare plan. Maybe he would put it out there. But really didn't make sense to me today also was the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany standing at the podium. Reporters like you are asking questions about this saying, OK, where is this and she refused to even specify who was working on it. I thought that that was what you were supposed to do for the White House podium when reporters ask you questions you say, talk to this person at the Department of, you know, HHS and they'll give you all the details.


I think the truth of the matter is that the President wants to do something that protects pre-existing conditions. And there is absolutely no agreement within the Republican Party about how you would do that. Or they would have had a plan already. And the Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who said, yes, we're going to do some kind of an executive order. And that will clearly be some kind of political document, which will not have any support among a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill. So, it'll be a campaign plan.

COOPER: You know, Maggie, I mean, I keep going back to the campaign when the President will constantly talking about how it's going to be instantaneous the switchover and it's going to happen so fast, and it's just going to be great. And you can bring it state to state I mean, it's like, it's like a three-card Monte game, and we still don't see which where the health plan is hiding.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's almost like healthcare and healthcare reform is an enormously complicated and complex issue that you can't just write on the back of a cereal box and campaign off of it. But what Anderson what I was really struck by last night, I'm no longer struck by the fact that the President keeps promising a plan that he has yet to deliver, because we had heard him do versions that for a long time. I agree with Gloria, I think that if given his druthers, he probably would not stick to what the GOP orthodoxy has been on this, but he is a Republican, he ran as a Republican, and he cannot be allowed to not own the lawsuit. The Department of Justice is engaged in on repealing Obamacare.

So, when he's talking to this woman and saying and she's saying, you know, should might he interrupt her and she was asking if she should be forced ever healthcare cut off due to pre-existing conditions coverage? And he says, no, I mean, this is his administration that's suing and he is creating an enormous amount of (INAUDIBLE) and uncertainty for people on actual life and death issues.

COOPER: Gloria, you know, you wrote a piece for today that I saw about how President Trump's always refused to see the difference between truth and lies. The same thing Bob Woodward was saying last night about not knowing what the President has it straight in his head about what's real and unreal.

BORGER: Yes, that's what he does. And I guess we shouldn't be surprised by it anymore. But, you know, it took me back to a time when I -- four years ago was doing a documentary on Donald Trump. And there's this story that always pops into my mind now, which is in 1990, he was opening up the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City. And on opening night, a third of the slot machines shut down. And it was a disaster for him. But he went on Larry King, and instead of saying, you know, we had a real problem with the slot machines. What he said to Larry King was, they were so hot, they blew out. And that was the story, and he is sticking to it. And that is what he hopes it we've seen him do throughout his presidency. Which is once he comes to a narrative that he believes he can sell, not that he believes in, not that he believes is the truth, but a narrative that he thinks he can sell, then he is devoted to selling it.

And whether it's on healthcare, forget the fact that his administration is fighting preexisting conditions in court as Maggie points out, doesn't matter. His narrative is, I'm going to protect it no matter what.

COOPER: And, you know -- and Maggie, we become so used to just things which are just so weird in and would be just derailingly weird in any other time. You know, in the President's press conference today. He -- what used to be the Coronavirus Taskforce press conference which he's now taken over. None of the actual known doctors are there anymore. Dr. Birx is off on some sort of, you know, extended tour somewhere. Dr. Fauci is on podcasts. And, you know, Redfield has been kneecapped. And, you know, his own sworn testimony, the president saying, oh, he was just mistaken and there's a radiologist now who's the go-to guy. Is this -- I mean is there a Coronavirus Taskforce anymore?

HABERMAN: There is, but to your point it's -- it sort of doesn't matter. I mean, this has always been an issue with this White House in terms of dealing with the coronavirus is the degree to which the President has treated this like a messaging challenge, as opposed to a pandemic and a medical crisis and a healthcare crisis and a health crisis. Instead, he has looked at, you know, the PR crisis because he tends to conflate all issues, legal, public health, government, with PR crisis. And that's what you saw him do today.

And it was pretty remarkable watching this in real time, to your point at this press conference, where he's literally saying, you know, intimating that he suggested to Redfield that Redfield must have misunderstood the question and that Redfield would make that clear, the CDC director, if we asked him now. And then he turns Scot Atlas, his new go-to a guy who's in the room who basically says a version of what Redfield said just minus the thing about mask, but in terms of what he was saying about the time on the vaccine --


COOPER: Right.

HABERMAN: -- it was same thing.

COOPER: Yes. And yet and then -- but the President just kind of ignored -- ignored that as well.

HABERMAN: Ignored that and then pretended that had not been set.

COOPER: Right, exactly. HABERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) literarily just like, no, he just didn't understand.



HABERMAN: It was a neat encapsulation.

BORGER: How mortifying. How mortifying is.

COOPER: Yes, mortifying it is Gloria.

BORGER: Right.


BORGER: How mortifying is that for the CDC director?

COOPER: Well, I mean --

BORGER: It is mortifying, he had to come out and say, well, I didn't say the what I said.

COOPER: That's just the latest mortification.

BORGER: Which he said.

COOPER: Yes. Maggie Haberman, Gloria Borger, thank you very much.

BORGER: Yes. Yes.

COOPER: A quick programming note, we'll be moderating presidential town hall, former Vice President Joe Biden tomorrow night, beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Takes place in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Up next, the Trump administration boasted to be a game changer contractor, the big drug maker for rapid antigen tests. We'll take a look at what's happened.

And later, a massive flooding along parts of the Gulf Coast because a Hurricane Sally will take you there.


COOPER: And as press conference today, President Trump again praised his record and Coronavirus testing. This, his administration last month promised a nationwide rollout of rapid antigen tests. The contract with Abbott Labs was for $760 million.


HHS Secretary Alex Azar, calling it quote, another incredibly valuable result of President Trump's all of America approach. CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin, now on the results. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was supposed to be a game changer in the fight against COVID-19. The Trump administration announcing a few weeks ago it was buying 150 million new Abbott Laboratories rapid antigen tests.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to deliver millions every week to governors.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Finally, the U.S. has desperately needed point of care tests which don't have to be sent to a lab can be done at schools, workplaces and nursing homes and give results in just 15 minutes. But what should be a pivotal moment in the response to coronavirus likely will not be. Because once again there is no clear national plan according to 11 experts who spoke to CNN, all who believe the country needs more federal guidance.

REBECCA LEE SMITH, EPIDEMIOLOGY PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS: National messaging is essential to controlling infectious disease, because diseases don't stop at state borders.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The point of care tests are cheap and very fast but not as accurate. Multiple experts tell CNN they are most effective when groups of people are tested repeatedly. That would require far more tests than the U.S. as an order.

MARK MCCLELLAN, FMR FDA COMMISSIONER: We are talking about a lot of tests more than 100 million tests per month.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Which is why 10 states have teamed up to purchase millions of their own tests. And in lieu of any detailed guidance from federal health officials, the Rockefeller Foundation and Duke University have come up with their own guidelines, a report on effective testing and screening for COVID-19.

MCCLELLAN: How we test how often we test who we test which tests we use for people who don't have symptoms, when they're going back to a workplace or going back to school. That's where we really need guidance.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The report's main feature, according to Duke University director and former FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan, is screening massive amounts of the population on a regular basis. One key goal, catching asymptomatic individuals, 40% of people infected with coronavirus have no symptoms.

MCCLELLAN: We have asymptomatic testing going on now it works. It helps reduce spread. What we don't have is a national strategy that we're actually implementing to get those asymptomatic screening tests to everybody who most needs them right now.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The reports plan, testing schoolchildren returning to class, essential workers, detecting positive cases, isolating them tracing their contacts and developing a single coherent public health message with one simple goal, suppressing the virus so we can reopen society.

(on-camera): That sounds like a plan that you would have at the beginning of a pandemic, not eight months in.

MCCLELLAN: Well, we've been here have a plan at the beginning.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): It would also have saved lives. South Korea and the United States both announced their first case within 24 hours of each other. South Korea launched a massive testing program, the U.S. did not. That's in the U.S. skyrocketed to now nearing 200,000. South Korea's death toll is less than 400, our rate 85 times lower.

PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: They refuse to launch a national response. It's one of our greatest national tragedies and it's our biggest public health failures.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The kind of testing needed now according to experts can be found on some U.S. campuses, like the University of Illinois, where students take a saliva test twice a week. They're able to identify asymptomatic people with COVID and limit potential outbreaks before they spread. But epidemiology Professor Rebecca Lee Smith says it won't work unless the entire nation works together.

LEE SMITH: It is quite frustrating. Guidance from the top down, is what will get us together as a country to get out of this.


GRIFFIN: Anderson, the Department of Health and Human Services responded to this report saying they do have a national strategy and support $10 billion worth of support to local and state agencies to do testing. But those state agencies say that's not a strategy at all. That's just throwing money at 50 different states to come up with their own plan. And it's just not the kind of leadership. And in fact the lack of leadership and leadership is what is needed now they say to get us through this pandemic. Anderson.

COOPER: Drew, thanks very much. We go down the Gulf Coast where Hurricane Sally came ashore this morning as a Category 2 then weaken to a tropical storm called -- caused catastrophic flooding across Alabama, the Florida Panhandle. Does the damage in Pensacola, Florida after pounded the city for nearly 12 hours.

Gary Tuchman joins us from Pensacola tonight. What does it mean insurance damage it's a slow moving storm.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Anderson, this is a barrier island Pensacola Beach, Florida and Hurricane Sally what I meant here was hurricane conditions for much of the morning today, tropical Storm conditions from last night until this afternoon, but it wasn't a -- it wasn't a wind event here. That's a very important point to make. It was scary. It was frightening overnight. It was a rain event. They got more than two feet of rain here in Pensacola Beach. And because of that there's immense flooding at businesses and homes. For example, the Bimini Beach Bar, underwater right now. The next door, there's the parasailing wave runner business in a restaurant underwater right now.

And that's the case here in the rest of Ccambia County, the westernmost county in the state of Florida and the Alabama Gulf Coast, a lot of flooding, a lot of damage, a lot of heartache for people right now.

The good news is as of now, no one has died from this hurricane and that's very positive. But there have been a lot of rescues. Hundreds of people I've been rescued by emergency officials here in Florida and in the state of Alabama who are trapped in their homes from rising waters. All those rescues so far have been successful. I do want to tell you about this there's a bridge Anderson's called the Three Mile Bridge and it's how you get from Pensacola Beach to the much bigger city of Pensacola. That bridge is going to be out of commission for months because unmanned barges, either one barge or two barges got away, hit the bridge, part of the bridge collapse that bridge is closed. It is now a long ride to get to that city.

One other thing I want to mention to you and this may not be a shock, but something in Gulf Shores, Alabama, Anderson, this is quite an amazing story. Woman went out to see her property after was damaged by the hurricane. She lives near the bay, the Mobile Bay. She got out there and she ran into a 12 foot, five foot wide green alligator in her property.


TUCHMAN: She also ran into some snakes in her property. And she wasn't upset. She wasn't shocking. You saw that in Minnesota and Nebraska or upstate New York that'd be very upsetting. She wasn't upset. She said that she just knew without while the hurricane was coming in, not to go out there because that's where those critters would quote, hunker down. Anderson.

COOPER: Gary Tuchman, thanks very much. Remarkable, Gary. Appreciate it.

Up next. He fled war, now he's on a mission for peace. How are former refugees making differences? A video game developer, you're going to meet this champion for change, when we continue.



COOPER: This week CNN has been highlighting with some remarkable change makers , people who are redefining what's possible in our champions for change series. Tonight, a video game designer who spent most of his life in a refugee camp fleeing war in South Sudan. Although now he lives in the United States and he's on a mission of peace. He uses the power of gaming to help spread that message.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LUAL MAYEN, CEO, JUNAB GAMES: I first show a computer for the first time in 2007 during a refugee registration, it was an amazing moment for me. I came to my mother, and I was like, I want to buy a computer. She kept quiet to save money for like three years looking for $300. After my mother bought me the computer, I then realized I could walk three hours per day to be able to charge my computer and I will do daily every day.

LEO OLEBE, GLOBAL DIRECTOR & GAMES PARTNERSHIPS: It's three hours to charge his laptop so he can walk three hours back so he can work for two hours. He's sitting in a refugee camp in northern Uganda, teaching himself how to code and building and creating a game.

MAYEN: My name is Lual Mayen, I'm the CEO of Junab Game. And I am the creator of video games Salaam. Salaam is an Arabic word, that means peace. Salaam is a game that is really personal to me. When you're playing game, you're actually putting yourself in the shoes of somebody who realized that games are very powerful tool, that can bring our global communities together.

I was born on the way as my family was fleeing South Sudan. As they settle in northern Uganda, I spent over 22 years in the refugee camp. It became like a really prominent home for us. The only thing we could do wake up in the morning to go and find foods to eat, because like, all you need is to survive.

CHRIS BOIAN, GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER, UNHCR: We're looking at approximately 80 million forcibly displaced people in the world today and that number is higher than we have ever seen. What we're talking about our people who are really running for their lives. They're seeking safe ground.

MAYEN: Salaam is a high-tension runner game. Your focus as a player is to take a refugee from a war-torn country to a peaceful environment. We have in-app purchases in the game. When you buy water in the game, you're actually buying water for somebody in the refugee camp.

BOIAN: What Lual's game does is it provides people engaging in that game, an opportunity to contribute actual relief and assistance to refugees.

MAYEN: They have a need.

BOIAN: Lual's game is going to bring people that are not necessarily a traditional audience for messages about refugees, and it's going to bring them into the room. And they're going to be learning about this at a younger age. It's really a game changer.

OLEBE: I talk to game developers all the time. They want to create a incredible experiences for people 99.99999% of the time those experiences are, it's swords and sorcery, it's going on this grand adventure. But when you talks to Lual, he says, let me tell you about how we can help disadvantaged communities and refugees find food and find water. He can use his unique vision, literally to change the world.

MAYEN: My hope is I want other refugees to understand that we're not here just to survive. We are also here to thrive.


COOPER: We are here to thrive indeed. Remarkable, remarkable, young man. Just incredible. So glad he's here in the United States contributing in this way. We're going to continue to share these inspirational stories all week and be sure to watch the Champions For Change, 1-hour special this Saturday at 10:00 p.m. here on CNN.

Also another reminder about tomorrow night, I'll be moderating presidential town hall with former Vice President Joe Biden in Scranton, Pennsylvania, beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Hope you join me for that.


And I'll try not to take up too much of Chris's time. Chris Cuomo joins me now. Chris?