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Trump Tests Positive for COVID-19 32 Days Before Election. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 2, 2020 - 05:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Including to Tuesday's debate in Ohio.


The president talked about her diagnosis on Fox News last night before the announcement that he himself was positive.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know Hope very well. She's fantastic. She's done a great job but it's very, very hard when you are with people from the military, from law enforcement, and they come over to you, and they -- 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 happened.

I was surprised to hear with Hope. But she's a very warm person with them, and she -- she knows there's a risk, but she's young.


COOPER: Not sure why he's saying it's soldiers or police who infected Hope Hicks. If that's the implication, we don't have any details on how Hope Hicks got infected and we don't know if Hope Hicks' infection was the one that infected -- if she, in fact, spread the virus to the president or if the president spread the virus to her or how it spread.

CNN's Joe Johns is in Washington. Also joining me is chief political correspondent Dana Bash, and chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Joe, 5:00 a.m. in Washington. Not terribly long before some people at the White House start showing up for work.

Are most staffers even going to be allowed in there today? We've been talking, you and I the last hour, how lax COVID security has been at the White House. And there's a number of reports about that.

Do we know what happens today?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right, the only thing that you can say is you saw, as you read, the doctor's statement indicating that the president is going to try to continue business as usual and that would suggest that the White House complex, the staffers there are going to try to continue with business as usual. It's not going to be that way simply because there are real implications, both from the political side and on the government side.

And I would say one of the first things you have to ask questions about today is what's the potential effect on this on the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett and why is that? It's because we're not just wondering about the president's personal contacts, his close contacts, we're also wondering about what contacts his contacts may have had. For example, Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, who obviously has a very close relationship with the president, speaks to him on a daily basis, flew out to Minnesota with the president earlier this week and Mark Meadows has had direct contact, even in public, with Amy Coney Barrett.

So, why is that important? It's important because Republicans up on Capitol Hill and the Senate side have a very close time line to try to push through the nomination -- the confirmation hearing, I should say, of Judge Barrett. And the question is what about her? Does she need to be tested? Does this change the timeline?

And, of course, who knows? It's anybody's guess. I can tell you Amy Coney Barrett was at the White House just yesterday. We got pictures of her as she left the White House and got into a vehicle to drive up to Capitol Hill to continue her meetings with members of the Senate.

So that's the kind of immediate effect you have to ask about and there's just a whole bunch of unknowables right now, Anderson.


Dana, there's a lot we don't know about in terms of the timing of everything. It's important because it points to lack of either transparency or lack of transparency in the White House, which shouldn't be a surprise, but that has, I mean, really serious implications when we're talking about COVID-19. You know, as far as we know, we know that by Kaitlan Collins reporting by Thursday morning people -- it's a small group of people in the White House knew Hope Hicks had tested positive.

Julia Kayyem was on in the last hour and said that she had had a negative test Wednesday morning and Wednesday evening had a positive test. I think she got that from another network reporting that. We don't at this point have that confirmed but we know by Thursday morning people in the White House knew she had tested positive.

But if, in fact, she tested positive Wednesday night after having symptoms coming back on Air Force One, the idea that the president still went -- I mean, you would think the president would have been tested if Hope Hicks is tested Wednesday night, the president would be tested Wednesday night. And again, we don't have that. If she's tested Thursday morning and is positive, you would think the president would be tested immediately and not go to New Jersey to mix and mingle with donors.

[05:05:05] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Especially since testing is their only preventive measure really that they use inside the White House. They don't socially distance. They don't wear masks --

COOPER: Right.

BASH: -- which is as we now know is the most important way to do it.

So, they have used testing as the way to try to prevent people with the coronavirus from getting close to the president or even getting on, you know, maybe not the White House grounds but close to the Oval Office and it obviously failed miserably.

But on the transparency issue you were talking about, Anderson, there's transparency for public consumption and for public disclosure, which is important. But in the short term, the most important failure of transparency was for the people around them and the people they contacted and those people contacted.

My understanding is people who were in the White House close to Hope Hicks, some of them were not even contacted until they saw it on the news. That is reprehensible. You know, contact tracing is very tough, but when you're the White House, and, you now, there are, you know, people who are in the building who are near Hope Hicks and the president of the United States and you don't contact them, that's --


BASH: Never mind the other thing.

COOPER: Yeah, Kayleigh McEnany had a, you know, press conference Thursday. I know if she had been with Hope Hicks.

BASH: Exactly.

COOPER: I assume she had gone to the debate or she at least had gone to the event in Minnesota. And, Sanjay, the idea that the president is saying to Sean Hannity at 9:00 p.m. on Thursday night that he and the first lady just got tested Thursday evening and were waiting for the results still at 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, that just seems impossible to believe if -- I mean, if Hope Hicks --

GUPTA: Yeah.

COOPER: If people in the White House knew Thursday morning that Hope Hicks had tested positive, you're telling me the Secret Service or whoever does the testing would not have insisted that they immediately test the president Thursday morning at the very latest and would have known?

GUPTA: Yeah. No, that just doesn't make sense. I mean, you know, there's information that we're not getting here pretty clearly. I mean, there's a lack of transparency.

But I've got to say, you know, regardless even of the testing results, and, you know, we'll see if this is true, what you were just talking about with regard to Hope Hicks if she knew Wednesday night, Thursday morning, whenever it was, if at that point given that the president had this close contact with her, he needed to be quarantined.

Frankly, even if the test result came back negative at that point because the tests aren't perfect. You know, you have a false negative rate with the tests. If -- we've known for some time that they've not been cautious. As Dana was saying, the only sort of COVID security they have is to do testing. Testing doesn't prevent you from getting the virus. It just tells you when you have it.

But now, if there was another event after that, after the president had this exposure, another event in close quarters inside, now all of those people have to be quarantined, if there was close contact and there has to be a lot more testing that goes on.

That's why you want to immediately quarantine people so you don't run into the situation that we're running into now. It's one thing to just not be cautious, again, as Dana was talking about. It's another thing to be medically reckless, which is what this is sounding more and more like, Anderson, as you're laying out the timeline.


And, Sanjay, just in terms of what happens to the president now and to the first lady, they -- I mean, when someone -- OK, someone has COVID. They're in the same room or they're in separate rooms and who's allowed in to see them? Obviously the president can make phone calls, I assume, but for briefings, would they just be done by Zoom or, you know, on speaker phone? What would the actual isolation be like for the president?

GUPTA: Yeah. I mean, there should be nobody coming in contact with them. Given that they both have the infection and they're both in isolation, they could isolate together. They don't have to necessarily isolate from each other in that sort of scenario.

But anybody who has contact with them now given that they are COVID positive, it has to be for some, you know, very, very specific reason. You know, medical test or something like that. What shouldn't happen is that people are still continuing to brief the president, have close contact with the president because they would be at risk. And they should know that. I'm sure they do know that.

Even if the president is wearing a mask, which he should do, especially if he's coming in contact with other people, medical professionals may need to be in personal protective equipment now to interact with the president for the next, you know, 10 to 14 days.


Again, it's not an exact science. We can show the graph in terms of when the president may be considered cleared from this. They typically say at least ten days from when you first develop symptoms. Now, we don't even know, does he have symptoms or not? It's a very carefully worded statement we've received from the White House when they say he's doing well. Does he have symptoms?

If he does, it's at least ten days when he first developed symptoms before he might be considered cleared. So, you know, maybe closer to 14 days. So, that's sort of what's in store for the next bit of time. And, obviously, the idea that those people around him who may be in that same boat now. They also need to be guaranteed.

COOPER: Yeah. So, Dana, just politically, I want to talk to Joe about this, too, the political implications for the campaign, I mean, if he's being responsible, medically, scientifically there would be no large rallies for 14 days. There would be no debate for 14 days, if at all. It has -- how would this impact things? Even the Supreme Court process?

BASH: Uh-huh. So many things. I mean, first of all on President Trump campaigning, absolutely. I mean, Sanjay has already said this. He should be isolated for 14 days.

And that does mean that is getting us to almost just a little bit more than two, maybe three weeks before Election Day. If you're President Trump, who believes that his secret sauce is going out and having rallies, obviously, that is why he put himself and everybody in those rallies and everybody around him in this position, then that's dangerous.

But I think more importantly the political implication is the promise that he has made. The argument he has made. The messaging on coronavirus, on the campaign trail for the last several weeks which is it's almost done. We're turning the corner. Everything is getting better. Then he gets it.

COOPER: And, Joe, you know, for a president who is projecting strength as he defines it is so important to him, it's something he talks about, powerful, that will clearly be something he wants to do throughout his convalescence period as his doctor referred to it as, regardless of what his medical condition is. It doesn't necessarily bode well for transparency of what, in fact, he may be going through?

JOHNS: That's certainly right. And no question there's going to be an issue of transparency also, an issue for the president to try to continue to project strength even in the midst of this, sort of the Jair Bolsonaro approach in Brazil nonetheless. I have to also tell you, the president was supposed to go to Florida today. He was supposed to go out to Wisconsin over the weekend, which a lot of people in the White House, particularly in the media corps, that was a very bad idea simply because of the huge spike in Wisconsin in coronavirus cases nonetheless. And that was even before we knew that the president and the first lady had tested positive.

So it's difficult for the president to continue to project that strength in the midst of a all of this. Though no one would be surprised if he gives it a try, Anderson.

COOPER: Sanjay, do you think that's a possibility that he would still try to have a rally in the next 14 days?

GUPTA: I -- look, anything is possible but that would be terrible, terrible for that to happen. I mean, he's COVID positive right now. I mean, how can you -- the most basic public health guidelines, you have to be isolated. That is crystal clear. It's not equivocal.

And keep in mind, you say at the rally, I'm up here on stage, separated from people, it doesn't matter, because how did you get there? How many people did you come in contact with to get there? You know, all the shared surfaces. All of the people showing up there already.

It would make no sense medically. You could not justify it, Anderson.

COOPER: And just medically, would he be getting remdesivir now? Would he be getting some sort of therapeutic or would it just be wait until -- see how he does and see how the first lady does and if they start to show, you know, some -- I don't know.

What is the treatment?

GUPTA: Yeah. Most likely it would be more what's called symptomatic treatment. We don't know if he has symptoms. They were very careful in their wording of the statement. But if he has symptoms, depending what the symptoms are, typically what happens, they start off by treating those types of symptoms.


So, you know, fever, whatever it may be, cough, those symptoms get treated by medications to treat that symptom.

Things like remdesivir, or even steroids, things like that, typically, they are done, you know, because of the symptoms progressing with monoclonal antibody therapy or even convalescent serum. There have been situations to suggest that it should be given earlier in the treatment, if it's given at all.

But, you know, I think it's too -- we just don't know enough at this point to know whether any of that sort of treatment is warranted. My guess is at least for the short term, he won't be getting any of that other stuff.

COOPER: He had taken hydroxychloroquine in the past, or he said he had. Is that something he -- if he wanted to take he would be given?

GUPTA: Well, if he wanted to, I guess. But, you know, I mean, if I were his doctor, I would say this does not offer any benefit. We have studied it to see that it doesn't offer any benefit given your age and your existing history, with obesity and heart disease, it could harm you as well if you have COVID and you take this medication with your history, it could be a problem.

So, I would not be the doctor that would prescribe it. Who proscribed it to him last time without any medical evidence, you know, it happened. So, could it happen again? Possibly. But he shouldn't do that. I think the evidence is very clear on that.

COOPER: Yeah. Well, we don't know that he took it, we just know that he said he took it.

But -- Dana Bash, thank you. Joe Johns. Sanjay, you're going to stay with us. We're going to have a lot more ahead.

After a quick break, we're going to take a look at the president's comments about big rallies at the presidential debate.


CHRIS WALLACE, DEBATE MODERATOR: Why are you holding the big rallies? Why are you not? You go first, sir.

TRUMP: Because people want to hear what I have to say.

WALLACE: But are you not worried about the disease?


TRUMP: I mean, I'm doing a great job as the president, and I have 25,000, 35,000 people show up at airports, we use airports.

WALLACE: Are you not worried about the disease issues, sir?

TRUMP: Well, so far, we have had no problem whatsoever. It's outside. It's a big difference according to the experts and we do them outside. We have tremendous crowds.




COOPER: Welcome back. I'm Anderson Cooper.

The U.S. has had more than 7 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. Two of them, we now know, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. Both are currently in isolation at the White House. According to a statement, they are doing well.

A few hours earlier, we learned that top Trump aide Hope Hicks also tested positive. Hicks has been traveling with Mr. Trump all week, has been seen many times without a mask.

President Trump as you know rarely wears a mask. He has held large rallies, where very few of his supporters wear them either. Democratic rival Joe Biden on the other hand puts one on wherever he goes. Mr. Trump has often mocked him for it.

You might remember this moment from their debate on Tuesday night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I have a mask right here. I'll put the mask on when I think I need it. I don't wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he's got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from me and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen.


COOPER: We don't know if the president was positive for coronavirus when he said that. We're told or we have been told he had been tested prior to that debate. Whether that was the morning of the debate but it's not clear when the president himself became infected nor how he became infected.

Joe Biden has been careful in other ways running a low key campaign, with social distancing at his events. He did just share that debate stage with President Trump from a distance. President Trump's family in the audience was not wearing a mask, Joe Biden's was.

Their next contest was set for October 15th. Unclear if that will happen or any other debates will happen.

We're joined now by Arlette Saenz, who covers the Biden campaign.

You said earlier, the Biden campaign, you know, upon learning of Hope Hicks testing positive had asked a reporter who'd been near her to not come and cover the former vice president later on a trip today. With the president testing positive now, I mean, the question is, would the Biden campaign -- I mean, first of all, will there be a debate in two weeks given that the president has to -- or should if he's following medical advice be isolated for two weeks, would the Biden campaign be willing to take a risk and have Joe Biden on the same stage with the president?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's going to be a big question going forward. There was already a debate about the debates and whether there were going to be rule changes. But you have to imagine that now, the Debate Commission is going to be looking at whether or not they actually hold a debate.

You know, they put a lot of health and safety protocols into place for this debate. You didn't have the president or Biden shaking hands, as you normally do at the start of a presidential debate. Everyone in the audience was supposed to be wearing masks. We saw that on the president's side, his family was sitting right in the front row not wearing masks.

That's certainly some elements that the Debate Commission is going to have to consider going forward with that debate now less than two weeks away. The Biden campaign, you know, Joe Biden is supposed to be traveling to Grand Rapids, Michigan, a little bit later this morning. They asked a reporter not to tramp after he had been with the president to Minnesota. You saw precautions being taken after learning Hope Hicks positive coronavirus test.

But the Biden campaign has always been very cautious with how they approached their travel and how many people have been exposed to the former vice president. He didn't really start traveling outside of Pennsylvania and Delaware until last month and then when he does hold his events, they are much smaller events. The campaign is always very mindful of whatever the local restrictions are in terms of the gathering limits.

I've talked to people who want to make -- who have stressed they want to make sure they're not exceeding that in any way. You see Biden over and over wearing a mask. The walk out on the debate stage was one the rare times that we actually saw Joe Biden walk out at an event without a mask on. That was agreed upon in part because of that testing they went through at the debate.

Certainly they take a lot of precautions when it comes to him but also to set that example for others as coronavirus continues to grip the country.

COOPER: Yeah. We saw the Trump family there coming into the debate wearing masks. When they sat down they took them off.

SAENZ: Right.

COOPER: Although it's -- I believe Melania Trump kept her mask on. She was the only one in the family who did. When she went up on the stage with the president later took her mask off.

Arlette, thanks very much.

Special coverage continues after a quick break.