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200,000 Dead and Counting due to COVID-19; Judge Amy Coney Barrett Back at White House for Second Day of Meetings. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 22, 2020 - 20:00   ET


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Still waiting for that. He says whatever happens with the grand jury, he says the city will get through it together -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Jason. Thank you very much as we await those, as I said, charges could come any moment. Thank you for joining us. Anderson starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Good evening, tonight, when asked about the fact that more than 200,000 people in this country have died of COVID on his watch, here's what the President said and did not say about that horrific milestone.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think it's a shame. I think, if we didn't do it properly and do it right, you'd have two and a half million deaths.

If you take a look at alternatives, you could have two and a half million deaths, or something thereabouts, but it's a horrible thing. It should have never, ever happened. China let this happen. And just remember that.


COOPER: China let it happen. It's a shame, he said, but it's China's fault. But at least it's not two and a half million dead and that was it. It's hard to know where to begin with all of that. His Press Secretary said this today.


KAYLEIGH, MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He has said before that it keeps him up at night thinking of even one life lost. This President has taken this incredibly seriously.


COOPER: That's Kayleigh McEnany who promised on camera on her first day on the job to never tell a lie. So taking her to word, it must follow that her boss the President was up all night before and after saying this yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We didn't know it. Now, we know it. It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems. That's what it really affects. That's it.

You know, in some states, thousands of people, nobody young, below the age of 18, like nobody. They have a strong immune system. Who knows? You look at -- you take your hat off to the young because they have a hell of an immune system.

But it affects virtually nobody. It's an amazing thing. By the way, open your schools. Everybody, open your schools.


COOPER: It affects the elderly people. That's it, he says. Among anyone else, it affects virtually nobody, in his words. Virtually nobody.

Actually, Mr. President, it has affected and sickened and killed people in every age group from toddlers to the oldest Americans. We've seen college football players develop heart issues, children get strokes. We've seen people of all ages get sick. It certainly is deadlier to seniors, but anyone can get sick, and anyone can pass it on to other people.

But even if you believe that it only affects elderly people, as the President said, meaning kills them, are elderly people now disposable in this society? Is that the country we now want to live in?

If so, the President might want to look in the mirror or get on a scale because he is elderly and obesity is an underlying condition. The President knows what he said isn't true. He has known it for months.

Keeping him honest, he himself said, so to Bob Woodward back in March.


TRUMP: Now it's turning out it's not just old people, Bob just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It is not just old -- older --


TRUMP: Young people, too. Plenty of young people.


COOPER: It's plenty of young people, he said on March 19, when just 265 people had died, and perhaps when the President said that, he was maybe trying to impress Bob Woodward with his knowledge or make the accomplishment of tackling the pandemic that much more impressive when it actually happened. Except that victory has not come yet, because whatever the President's

motivations were for saying what he said, he never publicly said or acted on what he knew and even as the outbreak grew, he kept right on sounding the alarm privately about the virus, he said publicly would just magically disappear.


TRUMP: This thing is a killer, if it gets you. If you're the wrong person, you don't have a chance.

WOODWARD: Yes, yes, exactly.

TRUMP: Like a friend of mine died. Very great real estate developer from Manhattan. He died yesterday.

WOODWARD: Yes, I mean, look, you know, listen, it is students of mine. I teach a journalism seminar -- have written me -- have had it. And one of the women said she had it they said she was cured and they kept coming back with new symptoms, strange things happened. She had intense headaches, she --

TRUMP: So what happened?

WOODWARD: She is in agony, and they're telling her oh, you're -- you're cured now. You're over it. So this -- that -- I mean, you've said it, this is a monster.

TRUMP: So, this rips you apart.

WOODWARD: This is a scourge and --

TRUMP: It is the plague.


COOPER: That was mid-April and about 30,000 Americans had died and privately, at least, he sounded like he understood the threat for what it was. Again, though, he said nothing at the time that might have honestly alerted the public or had done anything to protect them.

Instead, he was tweeting in all caps on April 17, "Liberate Minnesota. Liberate Michigan and liberate Virginia." He was tweeting that with 30,000 of his fellow Americans dead and many more dying.

Now with another 170,000 dead since then, the President keeps holding rallies like this one tonight in Pittsburgh flouting social distancing guidelines, mocking people for wearing a mask.


COOPER: And as he does, new cases in this country started rising again from a baseline that was already too high to begin with, more than 52,000 reported just yesterday.

Take a look at the map, new cases are up 10 to 50 percent in 16 states, up more than 50 percent in eight -- the ones in deep red. They are steady in 20 states and dropping in only six.

Yet today, the day more than 200,000 people he took an oath to protect have died, the President again had nothing but praise for the job he has done.


TRUMP: I think we've done an amazing job. They are having a spike in Europe now as you know and we are always compared to Europe, and we've done very well compared to Europe. In my opinion, we're rounding the turn.


COOPER: Rounding the turn, he said that yet again. Yet, yesterday he gave himself an A plus on the job. Talking today with CNN's Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Anthony Fauci had this response to a viewer question about how he would grade the President.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Take a look at the numbers and make up your own mind. I mean, you know, you don't need a sound bite from me. Take a look at the numbers.


COOPER: Dr. Fauci also said this about COVID in younger patients.


FAUCI: It isn't just the elderly and those with underlying conditions, because it can be serious in young people.

True people with underlying conditions, but those are not just isolated to the elderly. There are plenty of younger people who have underlying conditions that put them at risk.


COOPER: Again, the president knew this. He said so to Bob Woodward back in March, but kept the truth from the public.

Dr. Fauci has not, he addressed the death toll today.


FAUCI: The idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering and in some respects, stunning.


COOPER: If the President is anyway sobered by the same milestone that has sobered and stunned the nation's most highly regarded expert in the field, he is showing few signs of it, truly feeling the impact, after all might mean acknowledging both the terrible scale of it, but also the individuality and unique value of every single life lost. Everything in short, that makes us all somebody.


TRUMP: But it affects virtually nobody. It's an amazing thing.


COOPER: Dr. Adeline Fagan was just 28 years old. She was in her second year of an OB-GYN residency at a hospital in Houston where she had also worked the frontlines, caring for COVID patients.

In July, she tested positive for the virus. By August, she was on a ventilator. And last week, she seemed to be turning a corner, and then on Friday night, she developed bleeding in her brain and died early Saturday with her parents by her side.

Her parents Brant and Mary Jane Fagan, join us now.

Thank you both for being with us. I'm so sorry for your loss. It is it is beyond words and incalculable. Mary Jane, if you could just -- I would love people to know more about Adeline. What was she like?

MARY JANE FAGAN, MOTHER OF ADELINE FAGAN WHO DIED FROM COVID-19: Well, Adeline is our second oldest and she was very busy. She was very inquisitive. She was always from a very young age a people person. She loved to talk. She was an early talker.

So she had quite a personality right from the time she was very young and it just developed into what she was or is today. And she was delightful. I mean, people loved her. And she loved to talk to people of all ages, particularly older people just because they've had a lot of experience. They've experienced hardship, joy, and she just was very, very pleased to be around people.

COOPER: Brant, the picture of her holding a baby. Was that the first baby she delivered?

BRANT FAGAN, FATHER OF ADELINE FAGAN WHO DIED FROM COVID-19: Yes, that's the first baby she delivered as a resident.

COOPER: Wow. That must -- I mean, did she always want to be a doctor?

B. FAGAN: Well, since she was five, she'd run around with a stethoscope around her neck and then when she was 11 --

COOPER: A real one or --

B. FAGAN: No, it was a toy. But then when she was 11, she had a terrible illness and ended up in a wheelchair and she went to a doctor who talked to her like a real human being, like an adult practically. And from that day on, she said she wanted to be a doctor so she could help people like that doctor helped her.

[20:10:10] COOPER: That changed the course of her life.

B. FAGAN: Yes. Yes, it did. That one visit to that doctor changed her life.

COOPER: Brant, you wrote something that I just want to read to people. You said, if you can do one thing, be an Adeline in the world. Be passionate about helping others, less fortunate and have a smile on your face, a laugh in your heart, and a Disney tune on your lips.

It did -- you know, I've been reading just about her. I mean, she did so much in her in her time. You know, in her 28 years. It is extra -- she went to Haiti multiple times. She helped so many people.

B. FAGAN: Yes. And that's what she loved to do. She went to Haiti four times on medical missions while she was in Medical School to help bring medical care to the Haitians that lived too far outside the city to get any.

She worked as a CNA before she went to Medical School. And, you know, we've heard from a doctor in Florida, whose mother Adeline took care of and touched her. She just loved to help people. She really, really did. And that's what she saw was her -- her goal in life was to help women especially to help people -- underprivileged people.

COOPER: And Mary Jane, I know, you know, one of the things that -- I've talked to so many families who have experienced a loss, it is -- oftentimes it seems like somebody who is sort of on making amend or has made a turn for the better and then they don't.

And I know Adeline was in the hospital for more than two months. She had been on a ventilator since early August. You were able to be there at the end, which so many families aren't. That's got to be a blessing considering the alternative.

M. FAGAN: Yes. Yes. Yes, it was. But we were also very fortunate in the sense that before Adeline had turned really ill, she had her cellphone and we made sure when she was at HCA at the first hospital, we communicated nonstop with her because she was so incredibly frightened and just not even talking.

We just kept the phone and we went around our business just so that she knew we were connected with her since we couldn't go in. Then when she was transported to Memorial Hermann, we had connect -- we had spoken to one of the nurses and said, could we -- since we cannot come in, could we at least just talk to her.

We couldn't see her, but we wanted to talk her. So every night before we went to bed, we basically went over what our day was like, and then we said that -- and we loved her.

Then as she progressed a little bit more, the doctors -- or the nurses were willing to turn on her FaceTime, and we were able to see her for a little bit. Most loved ones can't do that. I mean, it just how it fell, you know, into place with her having her phone. But I have to tell you, it gave us great comfort. And on Tuesday, the

week that she passed away, we were allowed to go in just for 15 to 20 minutes and she was very -- she had a lot of problems with sedation. And that day, she was very sleepy. But if I kept saying to her, Adeline, open your eyes. Adeline, open your eyes, she would do it.

And I am so incredibly thankful that we had the opportunity because she -- before I left, so my husband could come and see her, I said, Adeline, can you give me a kiss? And she puckered her lips. And she met my lips, and I will forever remember that. That was probably the biggest gift I've ever had and that was the last time other than the night that we got the call that she had a brain bleed.

My husband and I chose not to pursue any further surgery because she was so far gone. There's just so much blood that no amount of skills, position or technology was ever going to make her better.

And so I basically held her until the very end and that was pretty much it. You know? So we are very thankful that we had that opportunity. So many parents have not been able to and it breaks my heart.

COOPER: Yes, my mom died a little more than a year ago and I was able to be there at the end and it's -- I'm very grateful for her for that chance.


M. FAGAN: Yes, this disease has robbed us in so many ways, not only because of Adeline's life, but the fact that we couldn't even go in there to be with her and she was so incredibly frightened.

She was kind of -- you know, being in the medical field, she knew what was ahead of her and that just made matters worse for her. And now we're getting ready to arrange her funeral arrangements and again, we are having difficulty because of COVID. The things that you can do and things that you can't do.

And so COVID continues to wreck our lives and everyone else's lives.

COOPER: Brant, is there anything else you want people out there to know about Adeline or anything she would want people to think about for about COVID?

B. FAGAN: Well, I know she would want everybody to think of the other person. You know, wear your mask, social distance. Do these things that are recommended to keep people safe.

You don't have to want to protect yourself, but at least want to protect somebody else. It may be your mailman. It may be, you know your doctor or your nurse or your neighbor. You're doing it for other people, not necessarily yourself. That's what everyone should be doing.

COOPER: Well, she sounds like such an amazing person and just talking to you both, I can tell where she got an awful lot of that, from you and your strength is extraordinary. And in your grief, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us and letting us know about Adeline and what a loss for all of us.

B. FAGAN: Thank you very much.

M. FAGAN: Thank you very much.

COOPER: I wish you peace in the days ahead. Brant and Mary Jane Fagan. Thank you so much.

B. FAGAN: Thank you.

M. FAGAN: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Still to come tonight, we have breaking news in President Trump's Supreme Court vacancy. We'll have more on the pandemic, and all the latest news.

After the break, also a profiled discussion of who sources say is the frontrunner, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Also later, a top C.I.A. assessment on Russia's attempts to disrupt the 2020 election, I will speak to the reporter who broke the story tonight.



COOPER: Breaking news report on President Trump's Supreme Court nominee. The President says he will announce his choice this Saturday at 5:00 p.m.

According to two sources, the overwhelming favorite to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was back at the White House for a second time today. Judge Amy Coney Barrett is one of five female candidates and her prospects became even stronger today after Senator Mitt Romney signaled he will join his fellow Republicans to proceed with the vote, almost ensuring confirmation barring any misstep by the eventual nominee.

More now on Judge Barrett from CNN's Pamela Brown.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Officials tell CNN, Trump seemed very enthusiastic about Amy Coney Barrett after a meeting yesterday at the White House that lasted several hours.

After the meeting, the President telling people he believes she will be very well received by quote, "his people." Barrett began her career as a law clerk for late Justice Antonin Scalia.


It was intimidating working for him. You know, when he called you in his office, you had to be prepared to just go to the mat and talk about whatever it was and he was always five steps ahead of you.


BROWN (voice over): She went on to become a law professor at Notre Dame, her alma mater.


BARRETT: Before I was a judge, I was a law professor.


BROWN (voice over): Where in 2012, she signed on to a public letter protesting that abortion and contraception coverage of the Affordable Care Act were, quote, "an assault on religious liberty."


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): You are controversial, and let's start with that.


BROWN (voice over): Barrett's devout Catholic faith became a point of contention during her 2017 confirmation hearing for the Seventh Circuit Appeals Court.


FEINSTEIN: When we read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that's of concern.


BROWN (voice over): Barrett pushed back, insisting no judge's religious beliefs should have any bearing on their interpretation of the law.


BARRETT: If you're asking whether I take my faith seriously and I'm a faithful Catholic, I am; although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.

It's never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge's personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else on the law.


BROWN (voice over): Barrett also talked about being a mother of seven during the hearing, including two adopted children from Haiti and a son who she learned had Down syndrome when she was pregnant with him.


BARRETT: Benjamin has special needs and that presents unique challenges for all of us.


BROWN (voice over): Barrett's personal story and conservative credentials have endeared her to grassroots pro-life conservatives.


MALLORY QUIGLEY, VP OF COMMUNICATIONS, SUSAN B. ANTHONY LIST: Someone like Amy Coney Barrett it would be a very powerful choice to fire up the base.

She's an extremely brilliant jurist and her personal story, I think speaks to her pro-life beliefs.


BROWN (voice over): Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Pam Brown, thanks. Perspective now from senior chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, a former Federal prosecutor and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Gloria, you heard Pamela's piece. Do you think nominating Judge Barrett is the right move for the President ahead of the election?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think if you're talking in the short term political view, sure. She appeals to evangelicals and conservative Republicans. She, a former law clerk of Antonin Scalia, whom Donald Trump loved. So I think she checks all those boxes.

I think, though in the longer term, there are Republicans now who are asking the question, do we want to spend a good part of this election, talking about how Roe v. Wade would be dismantled? Talking about how Obamacare and preexisting conditions would likely be dismantled before the Supreme Court after all, there's a hearing on that on November 10th, before the Supreme Court?

So the President could get his win, but in the long term, will it help him in the General Election? The jury as we say is still out on that, I think, Anderson.

COOPER: Although Jeff, frankly, the more people are talking about those things. They're not talking about the pandemic and the President's handling of it. So maybe that does help him.

[20:25:07] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, perhaps although, you know,

one of the things that the Biden campaign is clearly doing is making the Supreme Court about healthcare and they're not making it up because the Supreme Court is going to hear yet another existential challenge to the Affordable Care Act exactly one week after the election, which the new Justice would have a voice in.

So, you know, it is -- you know, to the extent healthcare is the coronavirus, and if -- you know, every single person who has had a positive coronavirus test, even if they've recovered, are now -- have a preexisting condition which could deny them healthcare.

So, I mean, the stories are not exactly separate. And, you know, I think I have enough confidence in the American people that they can remember the 200,000 people who have died of this disease. At the same time, they're thinking about the Supreme Court.

COOPER: Gloria, I want to play something that the President said on the South Lawn earlier tonight. Let's watch it.


TRUMP: We need nine Justices. You need that. With the unsolicited millions of ballots that they are sending, it's a scam. It's a hoax. Everybody knows that. And the Democrats know it better than anybody else.

So you're going to need nine Justices up there. I think it's going to be very important.

Doing it before the election would be a very good thing, because you're going to probably see it, because what they're doing is trying to sow confusion.


COOPER: And I mean, he is intimating he wants to the Supreme Court involved, obviously in in the election. And, you know, obviously, the whole voter fraud thing is, you know, there -- he's never won in court on that. It doesn't exist in any measurable way.

BORGER: Well, it's only if he loses. But it's only if he loses, Anderson. What he is effectively saying there, and it's really quite stunning if you try and dissect it is that look, if I lose, we're going to take this to the courts and I have to rig the courts and make sure that I have conservative Justices on my side as if they would automatically rule in his favor, because they are conservative.

And you know, what he is saying to the American people is okay, if I lose at the polls, I don't want to lose in the court. And that's astonishing. Maybe not astonishing.

COOPER: Jeff, does it astonish you?

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, you know, like everything else in the Trump administration, it is shocking, but not surprising. I mean, the idea that the President is saying we are about to have a fraudulent election, which I will challenge in court is something no President in American history has come close to saying, especially when, as Benjamin Ginsberg, the Dean of Republican Election Lawyers said just the other day, there is no evidence of fraud, that this whole idea that there is a fraudulent process underway is simply a figment of Donald Trump's imagination. And he is counting on the courts to bail him out if the vote count turns out to be not to his liking.

That's something that we're not used to seeing in a democracy, but it is something we're used to seeing from Donald Trump.

COOPER: Right. I mean, Gloria, every time his voter fraud stuff is actually put to a factual test, you know, a voter fraud condition is formed, you know, with much -- you know, much headlines, it disbands because there's not the evidence that the President wants there to be.

BORGER: Right. There isn't any evidence. You know, as Jeffrey was just saying, Ben Ginsberg, a Republican who has studied this from the days of Bush v. Gore, 20 years ago, says there is no evidence.

What the President is trying to do is de-legitimize an election that he could lose. I guarantee you that if he were to win this, overwhelmingly, he is not going to say the election was rigged, and so we are treading into very dangerous territory here. Very dangerous, and he is setting the stage for something that we have not seen before.

COOPER: Jeff, you wrote recently about this in "The New Yorker," how much is the possibility of the President contesting the election results all the way to the Supreme Court complicate not just the election integrity, you know, writ large, but also the just the process of filling the vacant seat?

TOOBIN: Well, it's enormously important because you know, if you going back to Bush v. Gore, you know, Ruth Ginsburg was in the minority there. She was one of the four dissenters and of course, that vote split along party lines. And now, we are very likely to see a six to three chord as opposed to a five to four chord, which it was before Ginsburg's departure. And, you know, look, yesterday. I mean, last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the absentee ballots only have to be postmarked before Election Day. And they don't have to be received on Election Day to count, very important issue. That now is on appeal at the United States Supreme Court. This is part of what the Republicans want to do, which is limit absentee voting, mail-in voting as much as possible.

So this is a case that is already on its way to the Supreme Court. But there are kids, you know, there are, it's hard to believe, but it's true. There are 200 cases in the United States, working their way through the courts to about the rules of the election. At least some of them are going to be -- they're going to be appealed to the Supreme Court, whether they agree to hear any of them. But this is a crucial part of this election. And as, you know, Gloria was saying the President in a very explicit way is saying, I need to stack the Supreme Court, so I will win one way or another.

COOPER: Appreciate it. Thank you.

Next, Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin on his new reporting on a top secret intelligence community assessment of Russian interference in the election that's happening as we speak.



COOPER: If you've ever worried that we're all stuck in some horrible campaign 2020 version of Groundhog Day 2016, Josh Rogin's latest column in the Washington Post will wake you up for yet another day. Here's his lead quote, Russian President Vladimir Putin his top aides are quote probably directing a Russian foreign influence operation to interfere in the 2020 presidential election against former Vice President Joe Biden, which involves a prominent Ukrainian lawmaker connected to President Trump's personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. A top Secret CIA assessment concluded according to two sources who reviewed it.

Now, according to Rogin, who joins us shortly the CIA, NSA and FBI all declined to comment but do not dispute the details. The White House here rise also had no comment. But, if there's no comment, there's certainly a context to all this. Namely the President's repeated refusal to confront Vladimir Putin. Here he is yesterday when asked about the poisoning of a Russian dissident.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you think poisoned Alexi Navalny in Russia?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We'll talk about that at another time.


COOPER: Just moments later, we'll (INAUDIBLE) had Bob Woodward on the Situation Room. Woodward's new book, as you know, contain some accounts about Dan Coats, the fired director of National Intelligence in his reported belief that Putin had something on the President.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It's an extraordinary exchange. It's an extraordinary bit of reporting you have in the book. How do you see it? You see any other explanation other than what Dan Coats suggested?

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR: Well, Dan Coats is the number one intelligence officer, somebody who'd been a Republican senator from Indiana for 16 years, one of Mike Pence's closest friends, an evangelical Christian. For Coats went through all the intelligence, the deep cover sources, the intercepts everything he had his people to see if they could find something they found no evidence and no proof.

At the same time, Coats could not check the conclusion because of Trump's repeated behavior in deference to Putin that went beyond rational presidential decision making.


COOPER: The President fire of course Dan Coates. He fired FBI Director James Comey who investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election. And he's now at odds with the man he chose to replace Comey current FBI Director Christopher Wray who said this last week to the House Intelligence Committee.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We certainly have seen very active very active efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020. And I think the intelligence community has assessed this publicly to primarily to denigrate Vice President Biden.


COOPER: Just remind you, this echoes the intelligence community's public assessment. Josh Rogin joins us now. Josh, according to your reporting, what else did this top secret CIA assessment conclude?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, well, the assessment does not name Rudy Giuliani, but it refers to a prominent person close to the Trump campaign that was employed by this Russian influence operation scheme, which involves Ukrainian pro-Russian lawmaker Andrii Derkach who is a buddy of Giuliani's, they're doing YouTube videos all the time. And the assessment, again, highly classified on the CIA worldwide intelligence review site dated August 31st, said that they're cautious also, spreading this information through U.S. lawmakers, U.S. lobbyists, U.S. media organizations. And again, while it doesn't name those, it's pretty obvious and clear who they were referring to because Rudy and Derkach have been doing a lot of this stuff in public, not all of it but some of it.

And basically, what we see in this assessment is just a lot of concern and reporting and investigation into this Derkach, Rudy Giuliani scheme and the assessment the conclusion that Vladimir Putin and his top officials are definitely aware and probably directing it. And that's the key bit here. It ties the top level of the Kremlin not definitively, but probably to the President's lawyer, and a pro- Russian Ukrainian lawmaker who's attacking our democracy.


COOPER: I mean, it's incredible.

ROGIN: It's shocking, it's not surprising because of the setup that you just went through. So expertly, which is that we've seen this movie before.

COOPER: Right.

ROGIN: And the Russians have been doing this the whole time. And, of course, it's predictable, and sort of, you know, believable that Putin would be in charge of it, knowing the way that their system operates. At the same time, it's so disturbing, in a way, especially to the people who are working on this inside the intelligence community, because the President won't acknowledge it. And because he won't stop it, and/or do or even, you know, do anything to sort of distance himself from it.

And, you know, you could go through all of the speculation about whether or not the Russians have something on Trump. I think it's just as likely that he just enjoys the support, and he doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds him. They don't have to have something on him. They don't have to be colluding, they can just be sharing interests and sort of what we call aiding and abetting the Russian interference operation. And that includes the U.S. media organizations that are laundering this information, and the lawmakers who are doing investigations into the things that Rudy and Derkach were peddling.

Namely, the allegations that Hunter Biden and Joe Biden and Burisma were involved in some corrupt scheme with the Ukrainian government at the time. And that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia on behalf of Hillary Clinton. And this is the whole scheme that got Trump impeached in the first place. And Rudy is still doing it. So the Intelligence Committee is still investigating it.

COOPER: I want to play something that Attorney General Barr said here on CNN just a few weeks ago, just replays.


BLITZER: Of those three countries that the intelligence community has pointed to Russia, China and Iran, which is the most assertive, the most aggressive in this area?


BLITZER: Which one?

BARR: China.

BLITZER: China more than Russia right now?

BARR: Yes.

BLITZER: Why do you say that?

BARR: Because I've seen the intelligence.


COOPER: To your knowledge is anything the assessment support with the Attorney General has said?

ROGIN: To be clear, this assessment is only regarding the Russian influence operation. There's probably another assessment, one that I haven't seen about the Chinese efforts. Now, it the fact that the Attorney General is making that assertion without providing any evidence begs the question of what the heck is he talking about. But from the intelligence officials that I've talked to they seem unanimous and clear that actually this Russian operation is much more extensive, much more organized, and actually much more effective than any Chinese influence operations Namely, because again, they're working with the President's lawyer and major GOP senators are conducting investigations to unearth the same disinformation that Rudy and the Russians are peddling. Coincidentally, apparently.

So we can see it everywhere. So to assert that the Chinese operation is greater, I think would make would be much more credible. If there was any evidence that the administration is willing to forward.

COOPER: The CIA assessment also had details about misinformation about Vice President Biden being funneled through members of Congress, as you mentioned. I wonder, are there members of Congress wittingly or unwittingly helping Russia's election interference campaign?

ROGIN: Yes. Right. Exactly. They're either doing it wittingly or unwittingly, you know, the, what we know from the public record is that Derkach and Rudy have been sending all of this information about Hunter Biden and, you know, Burisma and whatever it is they came up with to Chuck Grassley, Ron Johnson, Lindsey Graham, Devin Nunez. All of these GOP lawmaker said, say that they didn't get information from Derkach, yet somehow that Ron Johnson investigation, the report of which could be released as early as this week, is all about the same exact disinformation that Rudy and Derkach have been peddling.

So whether or not they got it from Derkach, somehow they got it. So if they're wittingly doing it, and again, the assessment doesn't speak to this, it doesn't accuse them of wittingly doing it. But if they're willingly doing it, then they're in a conspiracy. If they're unwittingly doing it, then they're useful idiots. Either way, it's pretty bad.

COOPER: General H.R. McMaster, the former National Security Advisor, President Trump told CNN today that President lawmakers are quote, making it easy for Vladimir Putin when they promote conspiracy theories about election security and Vice President Biden. Do you think that assessment fits with what intelligence agencies are saying?

ROGIN: Yes, I think it fits perfectly. Basically, what he's saying is that, you know, that the Russians goal is to get Americans to do Putin's bidding for him. That's how influence operations work. They plant Russian ideas in American mouths and American voices and on American outlets. And because we see them coming out of GOP mouths and the President's mouth and Rudy's mouth, and the President retweeted some of this, this information on August 18th directly. Yes, it seems like it's working.

And I think there are a lot of people inside the government, including H.R. McMaster, but also a lot of people in all of these agencies. He's who are really concerned about that. But they're afraid that if they speak up, they'll get the Comey treatment, they'll become, you know, the target of the President's (INAUDIBLE) get fired or worse and that's the climate that's going on inside of our government right now. It's a government at war with itself. OK. You've got people trying to fight Russian interference and at the same time looking over their shoulder to make sure that they don't have the President of the United States fighting them. It's bizarre.


COOPER: Yes, it's that's stunning. Stunning reporting. Josh Rogin. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

ROGIN: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, more on the climbing us coronavirus death toll topping 200,000. I'll talk to the governor of Washington, his state had the first confirmed death in this country, his thoughts on the grim milestone and we're still needed in the fight against COVID, when we continue


COOPER: Back to our breaking news on coronavirus, as we've reported a grim milestone in the United States the death toll has topped 200,000. Back in late February in the early days the pandemic Washington State was hit hard and early. They had what was then the first confirmed U.S. death, a male patient in his 50s. For months, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has been on the frontline trying to help everyone in his state. I spoke with him just before air time.


COOPER (on-camera): Governor Inslee thanks for joining us. Washington State, one of the very first to report a death from this pandemic. How is the state doing at this point and where do you see this going?


GOV. JAY INSLEE (D-WA): Well, I think what I'd say is we're turning the tide. This has been a long struggle. Obviously we started as the first hit, as you know, and the hardest hit. And we have been making progress. Our numbers have coming down significantly. Today, there are 45 other states, I believe that have infection rates higher than our, sometimes five or six times higher than ours. The reason I point that out is the good news is I think that we have shown that when you make decisions based on science and common sense and a reasonable degree of compassion, you can knock down this virus as we have done. But we still have a considerable distance to go to be in a place where we can reopen all of our typical activities.

So, we remain extremely diligent and extremely concerned about the fall. We know what that means when people come inside. So, we are both successful, confident that we're doing the right thing. Very pleased that people are masking up. I was the first governor to impose a requirement, that business insist that their patrons wear masks, and that has shown to be very effective.

COOPER (on-camera): You know, as a governor, you have access to, you know, your own state's health officials. But, you know, traditionally the CDC is the one of the gold standard for scientific advice and fighting a pandemic. Obviously, we've seen the politicization of science now. Do you trust inherently the CDC or the leadership, the CDC, the FDA these days?

INSLEE: Well, I trust science, I trust the laws of thermodynamics, I trust chemistry and physics. I trust good vaccine trials that are run in for legitimate purposes in a legitimate way. And that's the good news, because we ought to be able to actually tease out that real science from the bluster in the deception that of that is imposed by the President of United States. And I think we can do that. I think the most important thing, in regard to the kind of question you're asking right now is our ability to have confidence in a forthcoming vaccine.

There's some good news on that score, that the benefit vaccine manufacturers have, for the first time shown us their protocols and how they're running these tests, in order to try to increase people's confidence in them. I think that's a really good sign. But we know we still have this dead weight of Trump trying to politicize this, have happy talk to try to happy talk people into believing this is solved by Election Day. That is a problem. But I think the scientific community is doing a good job, trying to give transparency so that we can make our own decisions. We had a discussion about this today in the vaccine program with my health team, we will have access, I believe, we will need to have access to the vaccine results. So we can make our independent assessment to make sure that Donald Trump's fingerprints are not on it. Those are the fingerprints we have to keep off of this process. It's extremely important.

Now, it's important that we wish the President would not virtually every day try to reduce the credibility of this system by his, again, deplorable deception and talking about this and his insistence on violating the law. What kind of American president in the middle of a pandemic goes to a state consciously, willfully violates the law, as he did in Nevada, that is intended to save Americans live, and now we've passed over the 200,000 loss threshold. What kind of person does that? And that person should not be allowed to be in the White House any further.

COOPER (on-camera): And that milestone I mean, it didn't have to happen. I mean, obviously, this is a deadly pandemic and people are going to die. But, just the numbers that we have seen thus far and are going to see moving forward. It didn't have to happen.

INSLEE: Well, that is a very difficult truism to accept, but it is true. The pain and suffering on this and the President's continuing trying to downplay this. I heard him say that virtually no youth get this, try to tell him that to. The mother I saw interviewed right after that statement by the President who lost her son who is a football playing young man. I know underlying conditions that had a physical 10 days before he started to get in big trouble because of COVID. Try telling her that virtually no one gets this. And as a result of that less people have accepted our suggestions and requirements for social distancing and masking. And unfortunately, those numbers are unnecessarily high and I can't think of a worse tragedy.

COOPER: (on-camera): Governor Inslee, I appreciate your time.

INSLEE: Thank you. Be healthy.


COOPER: Just ahead, Cindy McCain, the wife (INAUDIBLE) John McCain has just announced her endorsement for president. Who it is and what she said, next.



COOPER: More breaking news tonight, Cindy McCain, the widow of former senator John McCain has officially endorsed Joe Biden for the presidency in a series of tweets, quote, my husband John live by a code country first. We are Republicans Yes. But Americans foremost, there's only one candidate in this race who stands up for our values as a nation, and that is Joe Biden. She wrote.

She also wrote the while she and Biden don't always agree on the issue as much like her husband did not, she says that Biden is a quote, good and honest man, he will lead us with dignity. In reply, Biden tweeted that he was deeply honored his words. Cindy McCain's endorsement comes after her appearance in a video at the Democratic National Convention about the relationship between Biden and John McCain.

Also, after numerous insults law by President Trump and her husband including calling the late senator loser, something the President has denied doing, but for which there is taped evidence to the contrary. The endorsement also comes as polls give Biden a slight edge in the battleground state of Arizona with John McCain represented for more than three years.


It's been a very busy night. So Chris is going to pick things up right now with "CUOMO PRIMETIME." Chris?