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President Trump Tests Positive for Coronavirus. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired October 2, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And Eastern time. And tonight FLOTUS and I tested positive tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this together.

A statement from the White House doctor says they will quarantine at the executive mansion while they recover. It also says they're doing well and the President will carry out his duties without disruption.

And this all unfolded late yesterday after a word the top aide Hope Hicks has tested positive for COVID-19. That was a story that reporters broke. It wasn't a story that the White House announced. She had been traveling with the President all week including Tuesday's debate in Ohio. The President talked about her diagnosis on Fox News last night.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know Hope very well. She's fantastic and she's done a great job. But it's very, very hard when you are with people from the military, and for law enforcement, and they come over to you, and they want to hug you, and they want to kiss you because we really have done a good job for them. And you get close and things happen. I was surprised to hear with Hope. But she's a very warm person with them. And she knows there's a risk but she's young.


COOPER: With us is chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, Joe Johns, is at the White House where the President and first lady are right now, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us live this morning with the medical side of the story.

Joe, let's start with you. Is the White House getting any more information on whether the President has any symptoms and the timeline of the past few days and how he ended up infected? Because I don't understand based on the reporting if Hope Hicks were the first to test positive -- at least that we learned about -- Thursday morning, and the White House knew Thursday morning that she tested positive, I don't understand why the President flew to New Jersey without being tested or if he was tested and tested positive initially, why he would have been allowed to go to New Jersey.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's very true and I got to tell you, Anderson, the first thing I thought of when I found out about this, is so many people I've talked to at the White House over the past weeks and perhaps a couple months, have said privately that it was highly likely the President was going to eventually test positive. Simply because of all the places he flies around to and all the people he meets with. And the fact that a lot of times he hasn't been wearing a mask. So that's important to say.

Many people believe that at some point the President was highly likely to test positive. Now as far as the timeline goes, it's really important because what you're talking about here is sort of an A-list of contact tracing at the highest levels of the American government. And certainly starts with the President. There was a question as to whether or Vice President has to be tested, needs to be tested.

There's also a question for example of White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who was quite active just yesterday. He did a conference call about judges on the Supreme Court. And it goes down certainly to Hope Hicks. And Hope Hicks, also important to say, she's been with the President so long. In fact, she was the very first campaign aide for then businessman Donald Trump right after he announced that he was running for president that I met. It was either Iowa or New Hampshire.

And your heart really goes out to, you have to say, to people. If you know anybody who's ever tested positive for coronavirus, you also know how potentially seriously this can be especially if they're showing symptoms as the report shows. So I sort of reached out on text just a little while ago to Hope Hicks to just say, hey, worried about you, because that's the human thing to do.

But in the big picture, yes, there's a real question about the President's flying off to New Jersey after it was pretty clear apparently from Kaitlan Collins's reporting that Hope Hicks had in fact tested positive.

A real question about what happens next and who else needs to be tested. Because you come into contact with a lot of people in a closed space certainly on Air Force One -- which I've flown a few times myself -- and the question is why wasn't the alarm sent out? Why did the press secretary hold a news conference yesterday without closing these facts. All of these things have to be known.

COOPER: Yes, I mean there's so many questions and kind of inexplicable. And then obviously, transparency with this White House has been a problem all along and in a time like this it is particularly important. Just the political ramifications of this, Dana, still obviously being figured out.


But the confirmation process for the new Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, the, you know, the vice presidential debate -- which is coming up. Whether or not there even be two more presidential debates. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Amy Coney Barrett who

has been at the White House and possibly exposed. We're not sure exactly where she was or who she was with.

COOPER: Mitch McConnell as well.

BASH: That's another thing to think about. Mitch McConnell as well. You know, the President's top aides meeting with people on Capitol Hill about the stimulus package. I mean, it goes on and on and on. The questions that are really unanswerable but incredibly, incredibly important in the middle of the night now as we talk about this and try to absorb and digest this news.

But I think if you ask the question about political implications, the most obvious is the President's own. I mean, the is on the ballot in just a little over a month. People are going to vote. And they are going to vote after listening to him for months and even in recent weeks say, we've turned the corner. It's getting better, except that the President of the United States got it. Him playing this virus. Saying that, you know, it's not that big of a deal for most people. It's only if, you know, if you're an older person. Well, he is in that age group.

You know, we all hope and pray -- he is president of the United States for any human, but especially him that he is OK. But he is the exact risk factor for a lot of reasons that people warn about that you have to be careful. So he's exhibit-A of what happens when you are not careful and frankly, reckless.

COOPER: And Sanjay, there are risk factors of -- I mean, what the cardio issues, weight issues?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, either the age is a big one. You know when you get over 65 years old, the risk of getting sick from this does go up significantly. Obesity increases risk three or four fold. He has heart disease, things like that do increase your risk. I do want to say, I think it's worth, you know, when we talk about risks and contextualizing this, what are the chances someone, even with all those risk factors and his age, is likely to get very sick. It's still the odds are in his favor, Anderson, greater than 90 percent, 95 percent chance, even roughly that he'll recover from this.


GUPTA: Yes, so you know, by no means should someone say because you are this age, you have these conditions, for certain anything is going to happen. If anything, you'd say the odds are still very much in their favor, but much, much greater risk compared to a younger person who is healthy. So you know, that's one of the things. And again, we don't know if the President has any symptoms or not. They say that he's doing well. That doesn't necessarily mean he's asymptomatic. But that's going to be something I think, obviously, would be an important data point to sort of figure out how's he likely to do over the next several days and weeks -- Anderson. COOPER: But just in terms of his schedule and his ability to campaign

publicly, participate in debates, if you test positive, I mean, how long are you out for just in terms of having to isolate from others?

GUPTA: Well, there's different ways of sort of looking at this. So, one thing to say is, look, you know, you could still be someone who could spread the virus, you know? And they talk about the incubation period of 14 days. The people would say you need to be isolated. In this case isolation again is a term used for people who have the virus. Quarantine for people who are suspected because of their exposure. So that's important to sort of keep in the back of mind. So 14 days is a number that I think is a sort of ballpark.

Now he gets tested regularly. So people could say, well if he's had a couple of tests that have been negative and separated by 24 hours. That could be a point where you could say somebody is no longer likely be contagious. But there's all these different sort of parameters, you know, in terms of when someone should be likely be able to go out. Not only in terms of ending their isolation, also being convinced that they're no longer a risk to others around them.

So it's going to be some time, Anderson. And frankly, again, you know, you place emphasis on the testing but the testing is really to try and tell someone that you now have the virus. If it comes back negative for people, it doesn't mean that they don't need to be guaranteed. And this goes back to the situation at unfolded yesterday. He had close contact, it sounds like, with someone with COVID and Hope Hicks. They knew that on Thursday morning.


If you look at the CDC guidelines -- and these are guidelines that are adopted around the world -- at that point close contacts needed to be quarantined. He should have been quarantined at that point regardless of what the test shows. Tests could have come back negative. Still need to be quarantined.

COOPER: Sanjay, the President told Sean Hannity Thursday night at 9:00 on the Sean Hannity show that he just found out or that he had just been tested and that they were waiting for the results. If that is true, that they were just tested, you know, an hour or two before going on the Sean Hannity's show or Thursday night, I mean, is that possible that that's true? That Hope Hicks they find out is positive Thursday morning and the President of the United States, who is known to have had close contact with her Tuesday and Wednesday, that they wouldn't test him immediately? I mean, I find that impossible to believe or incredibly negative.

GUPTA: Yes, well I just think it's hard to believe. I think that that doesn't sound right. You know, first of all testing is available. We know that. You've just had close contact with somebody who has it. I mean, that would be the first thing. It's a national security issue at that point.

COOPER: Right.


COOPER: Sorry.

GUPTA: The only thing that could possibly make sense, is that they got the test result and then they said, you know what, we want to confirm it. We're going to do it again, which sometimes happens. It still doesn't, I think frankly, make it a reasonable thing, but let's go ahead get on a plane and fly somewhere. At that point you needed to be quarantined regardless of what the tests showed. Maybe it was confirmatory test they were waiting at that point. Which again, even that's hard to believe.

This story does not make sense. I don't believe that he had no idea, you know, late into the night Thursday night having had close contact with the sort of testing he has available. But regardless, what the doctor should have told him, you've had close contact with somebody Thursday morning. We know that the test results came back Thursday morning or Wednesday for Hope Hicks -- I'm not even sure when it came back. But regardless, at that point you need to be quarantined, Mr. President.

COOPER: Right. I mean he was --

GUPTA: If you really had an exposure, you we quarantined.

COOPER: He was meeting with fundraisers -- I mean it was a fundraising trip on Thursday in New Jersey. Joe, I know you want to say something.

JOHNS: Yes, I just wanted to say it's impossible to believe except for fact that the White House continually has gone against the guidelines that have been put out. People on the complex regularly walk around without masks, the President himself. So we've been told everybody is tested who's going to come into contact with the President in the morning. But it's entirely possible, given sort of the lax standards at the White House that they didn't get around to testing the President until night. Until they discovered they had a problem because Hope Hicks had tested positive -- Anderson.

COOPER: And, I mean, that's really -- there are lax standards at the White House for this. I mean obviously, we know at Trump rallies there are, you know, very, very lax standards. People are wearing masks. But I mean, you know, this President came to power attacking, you know others for their lax use of e-mails. There's lax security at the White House or like COVID security at the White House?

JOHNS: I mean, the fact of the matter is, the President's aides routinely walk around the White House complex without wearing masks. And as you know, when the president is giving briefings, he hasn't worn a mask. The President's press secretary of the wear masks during the briefings. She did not yesterday. And that was even after supposedly the White House knew in fact that Hope Hicks had tested positive. So all I'm saying is that if you look at it in that context with the lax standards at the White House, you can see how it could end up that the President wouldn't end up being tested until late in the evening last night. COOPER: Dana, I mean that's just extraordinary. You know, I think most

of us, you know would think it would be the most secure place of all and that everybody at the White House would be wearing masks. The idea that they're not, clearly because the President has set the tone of, I don't want to see masks or you're a wimp if you wear masks, or whatever it is.

BASH: And our colleague Vivian Salama had a story just yesterday about the fact that there was an internal memo sent saying that wearing masks -- from the White House -- wearing mask is a bad look. So there you have it.

COOPER: It's a bad look.

BASH: Anderson, what you just said before -- it's a bad look, yes, exactly. And the term you just used, COVID security, is really clever and interesting. Because you're exactly right.


This is a national security issue. I mean, it was before the President of the United States got it but it is now, you know, in spades. And so, you know the question is going to be and should be given how important it is, why was he not taking his own security more seriously? The security of the people around him in, you know, the most important -- one of the most important buildings in the world. Never mind the most important plane or the most important room where he's in? I mean, all of the above, why not? And the answer is because it was a bad look. And he wanted to pretend like it was getting better and that the United States had turned the corner. And you know what, we haven't unfortunately.

COOPER: You know, it's so interesting that idea of a bad look, it's exactly what the President said when he announced the CDC guidelines of wearing masks. He immediately said, I don't see myself doing it. It's not a president -- I don't see a president wearing it. Like it's just not -- I mean it goes to the bad look.

We're going to take another break. We're going to have continued coverage of the breaking news on President Trump testing positive for COVID-19. We'll be right back.



COOPER: We're back with the breaking news. U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for coronavirus. A couple are now quarantined at the executive mansion in Washington D.C. According to a statement by the White House doctor, both are doing well. No details on any symptoms that either may be having or not.

Their diagnosis coming just hours after word emerged the top aide Hope Hicks has the virus as well. She's been traveling with the President all week. She was at the debate on Tuesday as well as a trip to Minnesota on Wednesday when we are told she started to feel some symptoms.

With this now CNN political analyst, Carl Bernstein, and CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. Julia, it a situation like this, obviously, you know the White House saying the President is feeling -- doing well, feeling fine. What's happening within the government right now just from a homeland security perspective? Because any time obviously the President's health is called into question, it has national security implications.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right, it has constitutional implications. Will he be able to serve out his presidency. And so basically, we have two systems in place in the United States. And so, this should reassure people. In some ways I know it's a little nerve-racking today. We have what's called continuity of government. Which is can the individuals be replaced? And we actually have a constitutional structure that if things go bad or if the President gets sick enough that Vice President Pence has to step in. There is processes in which people are elevated and we continue continuity of government.

And you have what's called continuity of operations. That's the stuff that is trained all the time, exercised. People like me go through this which is, if something terribly bad happens, can the government -- can operations continue. In other words, can we still function. In both cases there's planning and protocols. Some of these things may be in place now. We don't know how much has been activated yet. We don't know, for example, what's going on with Nancy Pelosi, who would be third in line.

But we certainly know that there is a focus on both of these processes. So I know it's nerve-racking for everyone but people like me get very calm when you start to see these systems come into place.

I think the more challenging security part is, of course, the national security part. Which is how does the world perceive us? We were already in dire straits. The world saw us on our knees given the response we had. We were viewed as weak and not resilient. We're isolated physically from the world. We're not allowed to travel anywhere. And this is consistent I think with that narrative, that the President himself got sick. In a president who of course, denied COVID.

This is also similar to what we saw in Brazil and the United Kingdom. Two leaders who were COVID deniers who ended up getting sick. So that is the piece that I think is worrisome from the national security perspective. From the homeland security perspective, systems are in place. This is what the constitution is about.

COOPER: Carl, I mean it is impossible to ignore the -- I don't know if irony is right word because, you know, his health is at risk. But it's impossible to ignore the record of the President in his statements downplaying this virus even though, you know, through your old colleague Bob Woodward's reporting.

We know he knew about the urgency of it, the danger of it, back in January, despite his public comments. But has downplayed it all along. And you know, saying we're turning a corner. Saying it's just going to disappear, just going to go away. Doesn't really affect anybody. It's hard not to think about that when you learn that the President himself has now tested positive.

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a very big factor in what we're witnessing and the national emergency -- national security emergency as well that we're now in. You know, the closest national security aides to this President, whether we talk about telling his Chief of Staff, Mattis, his former Secretary of Defense, Tillerson, former Secretary of State. McMasters, former national security advisor, Bolton, former national security advisor, and on and on.

These people all concluded that Donald Trump himself was in danger to the national security of the United States because of his recklessness, because of his ignorance, because of his relationship with Putin and other thugs around the world and his obedience to them.

And so now we find the irony -- if you want to call it that -- that the ultimate threat to the national security of the United States committed by this President may have been to become infected with the COVID virus. Because of what you're talking about, his own reckless.


His valet, for instance, earlier this year got COVID and the President was furious. Why was he furious? What did he rail about who others in the White House? That the valet did not wear a mask around him. The President has known all along that masks are the answer to this COVID crisis. And his negligence has been in not embracing the scientists. He knew, as he told Bob Woodward, that masks are the answer to this. And Sanjay can talk to this later, but this is the ultimate irony.

Because now all around the country these governors, these Republican governors who have following the lead of this President and denied that masks are essential. They're going to be taking a look as they open their schools. Or should they really open their schools? As they open their businesses, should they really be open right now with people packed person-to-person? I think there's going to be a tremendous re-evaluation and it's time to listen to the scientists. And if there's ever more evidence of what the President had done, we now have to say, let the scientists speak and let them determine our policy with some positive response from the President and the Vice President of the United States, as well as the Republicans in Congress.


KAYYEM: Can I say something?

COOPER: I think we're a little late for sort of a rethinking of it from this administration. I don't think there's going to be some sort of epiphany here. But, Juliette, I'm just stunned at all the reports Joe Johns talking about, you know, the number of people on the staff of the White House walking around without masks. There's an incredible quote from a reporter at the "Atlantic" that Brian Stelter pointed out to me. And I just want to read it because it's just stunning to me that he said back in August, -- that this is from the "Atlantic's" Peter Nicholas.

When I arrived at the White House this morning, I was struck by the lack of safety protocols in place. The most famous address in America now feels like a coronavirus breeding ground.

It was in August.

KAYYEM: Yes. Right, and I think a lot of us sort of wondered to ourselves, like how has Donald Trump not gotten it? And I think this is an important point in terms of, what might change because of this? I don't think Donald Trump is going to have an awakening, although I should remind people Boris Johnson switched obviously from being a COVID denier to actually giving a very powerful speech after, a sort of mea culpa speech after he got out of the hospital.

So we talk about homeland security, national security of course, we need to talk about personal security. Here is what the major problem is with the White House. Is that they had no redundancy in their security system. In other words, they were testing everyone in the morning, convincing themselves that the tests were perfect. The tests have been criticized. These are the Abbott quick tests, they've been criticized. They have a lot of false negatives. It appears from the TikTok about when Hope actually got her testing that she tested negative that morning.

So the White House staff or the leadership thinks, oh, I'm tested, I'm fine. They're infecting staff and others who if they have it. And so, you had at the White House what people like me call the single point of failure. In other words, the test better work correctly and people better take it. That clearly was not true.

That is why in the real world we talk about layered security. You want take the test, you want to isolate if you're sick, you want a mask, you want to social distance, you want to work from home, all of those things that we are going to have to do for about another year as we wait for a vaccine.

And the White House sort of fell into its own trap. You know, the President always talks about, you know, this is the perfect fix or the perfect solution. There's no perfect solution and I hope -- you know, I known people at the White House, you know, might be infected. There's families that are very nervous today. If there's some benefit out of it, it is a stark realization to the American public, there's not a single fix. That we have to continue to layer our defenses.

COOPER: Yes, I've got to take a break. Carl Bernstein, thank you. Juliette Kayyem. We're following the breaking news on President Trump testing positive for the virus as well as first lady Melania Trump. Just ahead, we'll get reaction from Joe Biden's campaign.