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Infected Trump To Leave Hospital Soon Amid Growing COVID Outbreak At W.H.; White House Press Secretary And Two Others Positive For COVID-19; Trump's Medical Team Saying He Is Not Out Of The Woods Yet; Trump Recklessly Warns "Don't Be Afraid Of COVID" As U.S. Deaths Top 210,000; Exclusive CNN Poll: 63 Percent Say Trump Acted Irresponsibly On COVID Risk; Growing Concern About Election As Millions Begin Casting Their Ballots. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 5, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. You can follow the show @TheLeadCNN. Our coverage on CNN continues. Right now, thanks for watching. I'll see you tomorrow at the same time.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.

President Trump about to leave the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland and return to the White House despite growing concern and serious questions about his condition as he continues to battle COVID-19.

His doctors saying bluntly that the president, "may not be entirely out of the woods yet," but also refusing to give important details about the president's treatment including lung scans and when he last tested negative for the coronavirus.

At the same time, the virus is still spreading through the president's inner circle big time with Kayleigh McEnany and two top aides testing positive for COVID as this crisis inside the White House grows and grows.

All of this as the U.S. death toll from coronavirus has just surpassed 210,000 people and nearly 7.5 known coronavirus cases. Our Jeremy Diamond is standing by over ar Walter Reed hospital. We'll get to him shortly but fist let's get straight to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He's over at the White House. Jim, the president tweeted, he's planning to leave the Walter Reed hospital very soon.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump is preparing to leave Walter Reed Medical Center this evening after being hospitalized with the coronavirus for about 72 hours. The president is still downplaying COVID-19 even as he's recovering

from the virus, tweeting that he feels better than he has in decades, neglecting to mention he's been on intense medications for days.

Medical experts fear the president is making a rash decision but the president's doctors claim he's made enough progress over the last couple of days to return to the White House while conceding, as you said Wolf, he's not out of the woods yet.

One worrying sign though, Mr. Trump's lead physician was once again dodging some critical questions.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): One day following his infamous Sunday drive outside Walter Reed Medical Center, President Trump is leaving the hospital insisting that people shouldn't fear COVID-19 even after the virus has killed more than 200,000 Americans.

"Feeling really good," the president tweeted. "Don't be afraid of COVID. Don't let it dominate your life. I feel better than I did 20 years ago." The president's embattled lead physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said he agrees with the decision while cautioning Mr. Trump is not out of the woods yet.

SEAN CONLEY, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S PHYSICIAN: The team and I agree that all our evaluations and most importantly his clinical status support the president's safe return home where he'll be surrounded by world class medical care 24/7.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But Conley simply refused to answer some questions from reporters such as when the president had his last negative test result.

CONLEY: I don't want to go backwards.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Sources familiar with the president's health said Mr. Trump was demanding to go back to the White House on Sunday with one adviser telling CNN he is done with the hospital.

There are new questions about the administration's mishandling of COVID-19 after press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tested positive for the virus. McEnany, like the president, had scoffed at the idea of wearing masks for months.

ACOSTA (on camera): Why won't you wear a mask? Because it's sort of a personal, political statement?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's a personal decision. I'm tested regularly. I feel that it's safe for me not to be wearing a mask and I'm in compliance with CDC guidelines which are recommended but not required.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Then there is her prediction back in February that COVID would never reach the U.S. MCENANY: This president will always put America first. He will always

protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Despite the long list of West Wing officials top GOP allies and Republicans senators to test positive for the virus in the last week, aids to the president say there are no regrets.

BRIAN MORGENSTERN, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY COMMUNICATION SECRETARY: We know what to do when someone got sick. Kayleigh is carrying it out, really being a perfect example of that right now. We continue to work but you remain vigilant. You just -- the wash your hands, you distance, you wear your mask. And then if there's any symptoms or a positive test yourself, then you go into quarantine.

ACOSTA: You guys haven't been doing that. You've been flouting the administration guideline on COVID. You've been working in close quarters.

MORGENSTERN: We're all tested very frequently. We wash our hands frequently and we've been taking the precautions that we need to take.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House faces a credibility crisis over Mr. Trump's bout with the virus after his doctor misled the public about the president's condition.

CONLEY: I was trying to reflect the upbeat attitude that the team, the president, his course of illness has had.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I learned a lot about COVID.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Add to that, the president tried to ease concerns tweeting out a video saying he understands how the virus works, before riding in a motorcade to wave to supporters exposing his own Secret Service detail.

The president defended the move tweeting, "If I didn't do it, media would say rude, but that's not true."

[17:05:01]

As one top D.C. doctor tweeted about the Secret Service agents with Mr. Trump, "They may die for political theater. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theater. This is insanity."

Still, the Trump campaign absurdly claimed the president has somehow one up Democrat Joe Biden.

ERIN PERRINE, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: He has experienced now fighting the coronavirus as an individual. Those firsthand experiences, Joe Biden, he doesn't have those.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (on camera): Now, on those evasive answers from the president's medical team, our sources tell us Mr. Trump is likely instructing Dr. Conley what to disclose and what to keep secret from the public.

And as for concerns that the president's condition could take a turn for the worst back here at the White House, Conley would not specify just how the medical team could make sure Mr. Trump will have everything that he needs.

And on the potential for Mr. Trump to get back out on the campaign trail with four weeks left until the 2020 election, Dr. Conley said, "We'll see about that."

But the Trump campaign is already hinting and stating pretty succinctly that the president will be getting back on the campaign trail least in the coming days with the one Trump campaign official saying the president will participate in the October 15th debate with Democrat Joe Biden, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see about that. All right Jim Acosta, thank you very much. As we stand by for the president's departure, let's go straight to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Our White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond, is on the scene for us. Jeremy, not everyone we're told on the president's team is clearly on board with this notion that the president should leave the hospital in the next hour or so.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. We know that President Trump has been agitating to leave this hospital both because he finds himself kind of turning in circles, wants to get back to the White House, and also of course because he sees this as a weakness to be viewed as being in the hospital rather than projecting strength as he typically likes to do.

But Wolf, that is not something that the president's advisers have been on board with. Several of the president's advisers as recently as even this morning, Wolf, I'm told according to a source close to the White House, they have been pushing back on the president.

They have encouraged him to remain in the hospital. The main concern, Wolf, is what happens if the president's condition takes a turn for the worse? Yes, the president says publicly and also telling aides privately that he feels much better, he's feeling strong, but we know that this coronavirus can be very unpredictable.

And so the concern among many of the president's advisers is if his condition takes a turn for the worse and he has to be air lifted back to the hospital. That would not be conducive to the kind of optics that the president and his campaign want with less than a month to go until the election.

But Wolf, today we still have major questions as well about the status of the president's condition. We heard Dr. Conley address some of it, but he continue to withhold critical information.

The difference today, Wolf, was that this time, Dr. Conley cited HIPAA, that health privacy law, essentially saying that he was not able to share certain information because the president of the United States told him not to, which leads us to the direct conclusion that President Trump does not want the American public to have some critical information about his current medical condition.

And some of that critical information includes whether or not he's on blood thinners, when his last negative test was, as well as what the president's lung scans actually show and whether they show any signs of pneumonia or other damage to the president's lungs.

Those were specific things that Dr. Conley said he was not at liberty to disclose and we now know, Wolf, that that is because President Trump has said you cannot share that information with the public.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, the difference is, the president of the United States is not an average American citizen who has those rights to privacy. He's the president of the United States. The American public has a right to know precisely what's going on with his health at a critical moment like this. Jeremy Diamond over at Walter Reed. Thank you.

Let's get some more on all of this. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us. Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is here, our senior political analyst David Gergen and CNN's political correspondent Abby Phillip.

Sanjay, based on what we know about his condition, and all the questions his doctors still won't answer, which is clearly unacceptable, is it the right call to send him back to the White House in the next hour or so?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, based on what we know is that, you know, he's a vulnerable patient because of his age and preexisting conditions. He's had at least a couple of times where his blood oxygenation has dropped to the point where he needed supplemental oxygen.

They are trying three different medications on him. This combination of medications is pretty unique. I'm not sure that anyone has ever received it quite the way this is. He may be one of the only people in the world to get monoclonal antibodies, remdesivir, and steroids like these. We don't know about the interactions between these drugs.

And on top of that, we know that the sort of critical window, if you will, Wolf, and this -- Dr. Conley said this himself, critical window is usually seven to 10 days into someone's illness. We don't have a clear idea of where he is in his illness because we still don't know about his last negative test.

[17:09:57]

But you know, all those things would point to anybody else I think if it weren't the president saying, no, you should be in the hospital. It is part of the reason you came to the hospital in the first place. That's where you can get the kind of care.

It was interesting to me, Wolf, because you heard Dr. Conley say we're not out of the woods yet. We're in unchartered territory still. Time to go home. It doesn't make a lot of sense, Wolf. BLITZER: It certainly doesn't. So many questions unanswered. Gloria,

it was amazing what the president posted on twitter as he announced this hospital discharge.

I'll read it for our viewers. "I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 p.m. Feeling really good. Don't be afraid of COVID. Don't let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump administration, some really great drugs and knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago."

Gloria, more than 210,000 Americans have died over the past eight months or so. More than seven, nearly 7.5 million have been infected. This is the worst health crisis the United States has faced in more than a century and the president says it's no big deal. I mean, it's outrageous.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It is. And it is insulting to the people who have lost loved ones. It is insulting to the people who have COVID. It is insulting to every American who wears a mask, who's been laid off as a result of COVID, who has lost income as a result of COVID. It is, I mean, it's disgraceful, Wolf.

And the president, unlike anybody else, when he goes home, he goes home to the White House whereas Dr. Conley was saying today, he has 24/7 care. He can go back to Walter Reed anytime he wants. They're going to be monitoring him all the time. That wouldn't happen to anyone else.

And let me put it this way. I was thinking about this. If a thousand people a day were dying in plane crashes, would the president of the United States say, don't be afraid of flying, its fine? Of course not.

But a thousand people a day are dying of COVID. And this is what the president said. It's absurd. And by the way, he said he's feeling better than he did 20 years ago. Sanjay, is that probably because of the steroids?

BLITZER: Well, what does Sanjay say? Go ahead, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Yes, no question. I mean, I'm really worried about the fact that these steroids can mask the symptoms of the disease here. Steroids are an anti-inflammatory. Anybody who's ever taken high dose steroids is nodding their head watching because it does -- it can kind of give you this feeling that you're improving, you're doing a lot better.

But you also have a hard time sleeping, you get very hungry, you're more easily agitated. As an anti-inflammatory, it's dampening down the inflammation which can help the symptoms of this disease but unfortunately, the disease itself may still be progressing.

So, it's a true mask, and Gloria, no surprise that someone would feel better, but then there's the bounce, right? After you start to wean off the steroids.

BLITZER: Yes, and do all these controversial experimental drugs he's now taking, the combination, Sanjay, of all of them together, does that potentially have an opportunity to play with someone's thinking, someone's mind?

GUPTA: Well, the steroids alone, I mean, can cause steroid psychosis, can cause people to become very agitated, it can cause aggression. I mean, these are well documented things. If you read the basic side effect profile of these medications, which is part of the reason you certainly want to monitor someone very closely.

But Wolf, you know, just think of it like this, with the steroids and the remdesivir, for example, you have two medications that sort of have counteracting forces. The remdesivir is trying to decrease how fast the virus replicates. What the steroid is doing is decreasing the inflammation but also suppressing the immune system to do that.

So, that can actually, you know, disinhibit the viral activity a bit and make it potentially worse. Sometimes you have to do that because patients are dealing with both the virus and the body's response to the virus, the inflammation. You know, you're really walking this fine line here, which is why you would do this in a hospital, Wolf.

I mean, again, and the doctor himself, you have to sort of read between the lines of all these press conferences. The doctors are saying one thing and then all of a sudden tossing these other lines at the press conference that make you really sit up and take notice.

Not out of the woods, we're in unchartered territory here, you know. We're not going to share with you the evidence of his lung scan or the results of his lung scan. We're going to tell you if he's on blood thinners. Why not? You know, it's very confusing and, you know, it makes you ask a lot more questions about this.

BLITZER: And this is not just any hospital as you and I know, Sanjay. I've been there. It's one of the greatest hospitals and not only in the United States but in the world right now. And he doesn't only have like a private room. He's got a whole suite there, conference room. He's got a lot of capabilities to deal with a lot of issues at Walter Reed, but he wants to leave.

[17:14:59]

You know, Abby, imagine all the people who have suffered through the coronavirus over these past eight months or so. We've lost loved ones to this disease and you hear the president say, I'm quoting him now, "Don't be afraid of COVID. Don't let it dominate your life." And then he says, I feel better than I did 20 years ago. How irresponsible is this? How out of touch is he right now on the severity of this crisis that's exploding and continues to explode? Some models project 2,500 Americans could be dying every day in December.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I'm flabbergasted by that. And honestly, I cannot stop thinking about it. I can't stop thinking about the people who are living in fear, really, every day because they're worried about their parents or their grandparents contracting this virus because they know that they're not going to have access to the same kind of care that the president of the United States is getting.

The treatments that he's been receiving either alone or in combination are not necessarily what the average American is going to have access to. So the message is completely wrong and completely irresponsible given everything that we are facing as a country.

You know, we've been asking for days what lesson will this White House, will his campaign, will the president take away from this experience? Will it change the approach toward urging people to wear masks, urging people to socially distance and to really take care to not put themselves in others in danger?

The answer is clearly no. The president said yesterday in a video message that he's learned so much about this virus. Well, if he had learned so much about this virus, the message would clearly be the American people should be very careful.

He was taken to the hospital according to his aids because they were concerned about his health. They were concerned that he needed to be in the hospital. He did not just breez through this. He was given extraordinary interventions.

And now I think it seems like he wants to pivot into don't worry about it, it's not that big of a deal. Go about your day to day lives. And that could not be further from the reality for many millions of Americans who are still going to be dealing with this.

Especially as we go into the holiday season trying to figure out how they can safely spend time with their families, with this virus still so prevalent in this country.

BLITZER: It's just so true, and he was having major, major issues when they decided to bring him to Walter Reed including oxygen. He was losing oxygen. He needed to go on oxygen to help him. You know, David Gergen, you've advised presidents of both parties over these many years. Have you ever seen a president behave as this president is behaving right now saying what he's saying, doing what he's doing with so many clearly see as totally irresponsible?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Never. And I hope we never do again. I wake up some days, Wolf, practically feeling that we're in the grips of a madman and it's going to take a while to get out, to get back to normal.

I think we should all be pleased that the president has made this progress and is going home, but to go back to Abby's point, I think we should be alarmed by the lessons he is taking with him.

You know, the very idea that people should not be afraid of COVID. He's doubling down on the biggest mistake of his presidency, which was to take COVID in a cavalier fashion to begin with, to downplay it, you know, to sugar coat it.

And now he's sending the same signal out to millions of people who are in his base telling them basically they don't have to worry about this. Why would you have to use a mask? Why would you have to do all this? We don't have to worry about it if you're not scared of it.

And I think he's going to get a lot of people killed as a result, starting in the White House itself. You got some 90 people in the residence, Blacks and Latinos, you know, who look after the first family year after year, do such a (inaudible) job.

They are now increasingly at risk. Secret Service is increasingly at risk. That should be unacceptable. One last point if I may, Wolf. You know, his team, the Trump team is now saying, well, he's come through COVID. He's proved he is macho. He is a man and he understands it, you know, he gets it.

I'm afraid he does not get it and they think they've got some superior argument against Joe Biden. Well, how many people around Trump right now, in his inner circle, who have been struck down by this disease recently? At least a dozen people have gone down.

How many people in Joe Biden's circle have been struck by this disease recently? The best I can tell, zero. One approach works and the other one doesn't. We ought to be very clear about that.

BLITZER: Yes. He's telling supporters don't be afraid of COVID. So, so irresponsible in a moment like this when it seems to be getting worse and worse. All right, David, Abby, Gloria, Sanjay, guys standby. We're going to get back to you.

The breaking news continues here in "The Situation Room" with more on the president's imminent departure from the hospital and his return to the White House. We'll, of course, have live coverage.

And we'll talk about all the breaking news coming up with the veteran journalist, Bob Woodward. There you see him. Lots to discuss. He has new information for us as well. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:20:00]

BLITZER: The breaking news this hour. President Trump soon leaving the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to return to the White House which is itself now the center of a COVID outbreak.

Let's dig deeper into all of this with the journalist, Bob Woodward of the "Washington Post." His new book about the Trump presidency. There you see the book cover, is entitled "Rage." It's really an amazing, amazing book. Great information in there.

Bob, thanks so much for joining us. Let me once again read this, speaking about "Rage." So, this outrageous tweet that the president posted a little while ago in announcing his departure. "I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 p.m. Feeling really good. Don't be afraid of COVID. Don't let it dominate your life.

[17:24:59]

We have developed, under the Trump administration, some really great drugs and knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago."

During your many hours and hours of conversations with the president in doing research for your book, he repeatedly downplayed the virus, admitted that downplaying the virus was actually his strategy. Does this tweet line up with everything else you heard from this president?

BOB WOODWARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, the starting point here is listening to David Gergen say we may be in the grips off a madman. Now, I've known David Gergen for almost 50 years when he worked in the Nixon White House. I've never heard him say something that extreme.

I don't know diagnostically whether that's accurate, but let's review the bidding for a moment because that tweet comes in the context of who Trump is and what he's done. And it goes back, when I did the first book on Trump, "Fear." What it showed is that people in the West Wing of the White House who worked closest with him seize documents off his desk, wouldn't give him letters to sign, wouldn't give him material, even though he had requested it.

And that was the barrier to the real Trump emerging. And then we now see we've had 10 months of the virus of actually what he did, the denial, just diverting attention to anything, and the presentation of that evidence now is unambiguous. It is all right there before us.

Then you have the attacks on the people who worked with him so closely. Secretary of Defense Mattis, Secretary of State Tillerson, the head of intelligence, you know, probably one of the nicest people to walk the earth, Dan Coates.

And just cruel dismissal saying things about them in public. Saying things about them to me that you would not say about your largest, your most visible enemy. These are the people he brought into the government. You look at what he's done and the major issues of the day. No plan. No organization.

It is all impulse-driven. You have, I quote Fauci saying that President Trump has a negative attention span, a negative -- that is a sober doctor talking about the president of the United States. The president, Fauci says, is only interested in one thing and that is re- election and now we see this tweet which is heartless. It is cruel. It is almost -- and you and I were talking at the break, Wolf, about this.

Is there not somebody isn't the system in the White House who can stop something like this? If I was the guy operating the machinery that would get the president's tweet out, if that was my job, and I was 18 years old or 85, I would look at that and I would stand up and say, don't do this to yourself. Don't do this to the country.

BLITZER: Is there no one, Bob -- is there no one surrounding the president who could tell him, Mr. President, with all due respect, don't tell your supporters out there in the midst of the worst health crisis we're facing in more than a century, don't tell your supporters don't be afraid of COVID. Everyone should be afraid of COVID. Look at what it has already done

to so many people in this country and so many families. Is there no one to tell him, don't do this?

WOODWARD: I mean, it's a great question. Apparently not. And then he says he feels better than he did 20 years ago. He's presenting. I mean, think about this. COVID is a kind of fountain of youth, it brings -- oh, he feels better than he's ever felt in 20 years.

Here's the problem. We are on the edge of a kind of government meltdown and chaos. And when is somebody in the White House, when -- I keep saying this, my former partner, Carl Bernstein, keeps saying it too.

[17:29:58]

Where is the Republican leadership? You can't let something like this happen. And it's happening before our eyes. And you wonder who's going to put the brakes on, because if they don't put the brakes on, what's the next tweet going to be? What's the next decision that's going to come out of this? Where are we headed?

I find myself going to the washroom and coming back in tuning into CNN, or the internet, have I missed something? Because let's face it, anything can happen.

BLITZER: It is so, so crazy. In your new book, "Rage", you spent hours and hours interviewing the President. We have some new audio of one of your conversations with President Trump. Let me play it for our viewers, then we'll discuss. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOODWARD: OK, so now tell me about the relationship with Fauci. You know, Fauci as you now, say you're a wartime President, and I think that's exactly right, by the way. I think --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a war.

WOODWARD: This is a war. And he's in many ways your Eisenhower.

TRUMP: Well, he's a very good guy. He's done it before. He's a sharp guy. I think he's 79 years.

WOODWARD: Yes, he is.

TRUMP: Very good.

WOODWARD: He's even older than you or me.

TRUMP: Well, when you compare him -- well, listen, when you compare that to Biden, and when you compare it to all -- you know, a lot of people we say, right? No, he's sharp. And he's doing a good job. He's a very dedicated guy.

WOODWARD: Have you ever sat down alone with him and gotten a tutorial --

TRUMP: Yes, I guess. But, honestly, there's not a lot of time for that, Bob.

WOODWARD: Right.

TRUMP: This is a busy White House. This is a busy White House. We've got a lot of things happening. And then this came above. Look, we had the greatest economy on Earth, the greatest economy we've ever had. And in one day, this thing came in, and we had a choice to make. Close everything up and save potentially millions of lives, you know, hundreds of thousands of lives, or don't do anything and watch -- I'd look at body bags everyday being taken out of apartment buildings.

WOODWARD: Yes, who told you that? Who -- what was the brief --

TRUMP: It was me, I told me that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You know, Bob, he says he was what, too busy to speak with the nation's top infectious disease expert, as this pandemic was raging and killing so many Americans. Has anything changed?

WOODWARD: No, it hasn't. And, I mean, just think of the errors and what Trump said there. He said all of a sudden, in one day, in one day, this did not come. On January 28th, 10 months ago, the key national security people told them, this is going to be the biggest -- not medical, but the key, the biggest national security threat to your presidency. And they presented evidence that was mind boggling that the virus is here, it's coming, it's like what happened a century ago, when 675,000 people died in this country.

And he's kind of oblivious to this in a state of denial. And it -- the performance on this is so bad, is so inadequate, is so irresponsible. There are -- I mean, I agree with Gloria Borger there where she said, if the thousand people were dying in plane crashes every day, would the President come out and, you know, do United Airlines ad? No, of course not.

That's exactly what's happening in this case. It's a good metaphor for it. And he -- this tweet when I saw it this afternoon and somebody sent it to me, I said, that is not possible, even from Donald Trump. But it has been confirmed. And so, where's the game, where's the ball? The ball is in the record -- in the court of two important groups. The White House staff and cabinet and the Senate Republicans particularly.

And if they're going to sit by and let this continue without some intervention, some sort of action doesn't have to be dramatic, but the message has got to be sent to the President, that he cannot do this to -- I mean, look what he's doing to his family. Look at this. What is he doing to his party? What is he doing to himself and his own legacy?

BLITZER: All right.

WOODWARD: Somebody needs to stop him -- BLITZER: Yes.

WOODWARD: -- and, you know, who's going to do it. We know who could at least make a passing effort.

[17:35:04]

BLITZER: Who's that?

WOODWARD: The Republicans in the Senate leadership, the White House staff.

BLITZER: Yes.

WOODWARD: Or the cabinet.

BLITZER: Yes.

WOODWARD: I mean, there's nothing Joe Biden --

BLITZER: No.

WOODWARD: -- can say or the Democrats, is there?

BLITZER: No. No, no. It's a very, very delicate, delicate, extremely delicate moment right now as we wait for the President's departure from Walter Reed.

Bob Woodward, the book is entitled, "Rage". It's a huge bestseller as it should be. Thanks so much for joining us.

Coming up --

WOODWARD: Thank you.

BLITZER: -- Americans speak out about President Trump and the pandemic. We're taking a closer look at some telling new numbers in our exclusive new CNN poll. Plus, what Joe Biden is saying about debating the President. We'll be right.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:40:42]

BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories here in "The Situation Room". We're awaiting President Trump's return to the White House from the Walter Reed Medical Center. We're also following breaking news in the 2020 presidential campaign. The former Vice President Joe Biden is campaigning in Florida after again testing negative for the coronavirus.

Let's get the latest from CNN's Jessica Dean. Jessica, Biden spoke after was announced that the President would be leaving the hospital. So, what did the former Vice President say?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, former Vice President Joe Biden as he has several times since President Trump's diagnosis wished the President and the First Lady well. But then wearing his mask and looking into the cameras, he said this directly to President Trump. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I was glad to see the President speaking and recording videos over the weekend. Now, that he's busy tweeting campaign messages, I would ask him to do this. Listen to the scientists. Support masks.

I hope the President's recovery is swift and successful. But our nation's COVID crisis is far, far from over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: Of course, Joe Biden, his campaign have made President Trump's response to the COVID crisis central to their campaign, Wolf. And again and again on the campaign trail, we have heard Joe Biden urge President Trump and his administration to listen to the scientists and follow health experts.

BLITZER: You know, Jessica, the President at least indicates he's still planning to debate by next week, that according to the Trump campaign. What is a Biden think about sharing the stage with him?

DEAN: Well, it kind of goes back to what I was just talking about. CNN spoke to several senior advisors of the Biden campaign today. They said when it comes to debates, and when it comes to his campaign schedule, they're going to let the science dictate what they're doing. If it's safe by the scientists, it'll be good by them. Here's what Biden himself said on the Tarmac flying to Florida today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Listen to the science. If the scientists say that --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).

BIDEN: I'm sorry. If the scientist say that it's safe, and the distances are safe, then I think that's fine. I'll do whatever the experts say is appropriate thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: And you saw Jill Biden pulling Joe Biden back just a little bit to give everyone a little more space. Back to those senior advisors at the campaign, they say they're skeptical of Trump's moves here regarding the debate, but they certainly don't want to provide Trump any ammunition to make the argument that Joe Biden's afraid to debate. They say that's certainly not the case at all.

One senior adviser adding that if the Trump campaign is trying to set a trap for them with all of this, that is not going to work. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thank you. Jessica Dean reporting for us. We're also getting our first indication of how the American public is reacting to the President's coronavirus infection. Let's bring in our Political Director David Chalian, along with our medical and political experts. David, what are you seeing, what are we seeing now in CNN's brand new poll?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. In these brand-new numbers, Wolf, conducted by SSRS, our polling partner, take a look. We asked folks, do you think the President was responsible or irresponsible in the way that he handled his own infection and how it may impact those he came in contact with? Look at that number. Nearly two-thirds of Americans in this poll will say the President acted irresponsibly, only 33 percent say he acted responsibly.

How about the information coming out of the White House about the President's health? These numbers are even worse for the President. 69 percent say they only believe just some or nothing at all, that comes out of the White House about the President. So, only 30 percent of respondents in this poll, Wolf, say they believe most of what the White House has to say about the President's health.

And then we asked what about his diagnosis, do you think is going to change? Do you think it'll change his approach to how he deals with the coronavirus pandemic? And this is fascinating. 63 percent, nearly two-thirds say not likely to change anything. Only 35 percent likely. And, Wolf, that number about the not likely to change anything, majorities of Republicans, Independents and democrats all agree with that. We rarely see that in anything related to the President these days, but majorities across parties don't expect him to change his ways.

BLITZER: Very interesting. So, Gloria, what does this polling indicate to you about the White House's credibility at this critical moment?

[17:45:03]

BORGER: Well, the credibility is in deep, deep trouble. There isn't any credibility. I mean, one of our numbers that was really stunning to me was that 72 percent of women say that Trump acted irresponsibly. Now, Donald Trump has a huge gender gap and double digits to begin with. And then when you look at this, this really is not going to help him.

And we've seen some spin come from the White House from a White House communications aide today saying, well, now Donald Trump has had COVID, so he really understands it. That is not going to fly with the American public. It's also not going to fly when he says, don't be afraid of COVID. He goes back to the White House, and he's being watched 24/7, as most Americans cannot be watched.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. Hotez, the President's physician continues to refuse to answer a bunch of questions, but specifically about the President's lung scans, or when he last tested negative for the virus, does that failure to be transparent and provide all this information to the American public about the President's condition contribute to this credibility crisis? DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR & DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, absolutely, Wolf. Remember this, we think it's possible that the President suffered a very severe illness. He certainly has all the risk factors for it in terms of his age, and the fact that he's male and his comorbid conditions, including his weight and other factors, it sounded as though he was getting very sick on Wednesday and Thursday.

And that was the reason why they implemented aggressive measures, including an experimental therapy that included monoclonal antibodies that's still in clinical trials. We know neutralizing antibodies are one of the best correlates of protection against COVID-19. So this, there's a possibility that this actually saved his life.

But we don't really know that, right, because it -- there's another parallel narrative out there that says, he was never really that sick. We were just taking precautionary measures, in which case, those interventions make no sense at all.

So, we're all left kind of scratching our heads as to actually what happened. And then the President pulls a bunch of stunts which minimize, again, the COVID-19 pandemic and epidemic and its impact on 210,000 lives and all the loved ones and it's still devastating our country. And we'll still be up to 300,000 or more deaths by the end of the year. And so, this tone deafness is just so upsetting to so many of us, especially in the scientific community.

BLITZER: Certainly is. And Dr. Jha, what questions do you have for the President's physicians as he prepares to leave Walter Reed to head back to the White House very soon?

DR, ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, Wolf, thanks for having me on. You know, this is what -- there's so many. And Dr. Conley, I think, has not done a very good job of leveling with the American people. There are fundamental questions about what's going on with the President right now.

He is on high dose steroids. And so, that has its own effects. We -- I want to better understand why he was put on those, what the plan is for monitoring him. I certainly want to learn more about his course of illness. I think the refusal to under -- to report when he had his last negative test, I think is unacceptable, because it's actually a critical part of understanding how long the President's been infected, and how long he's been symptomatic.

So there's just a whole set of questions that we're not hearing the answers to, that I think leave the American people confused. And I think it leaves space for misinformation and a lot of rumouring as opposed to just a straight facts.

BLITZER: Yes. The doctors should be totally transparent with the American people.

You know, David Chalian, let's get back to the poll for a moment. How does the President's job approval number now compare to past incumbent presidents, at this point less than a month ago, in the campaign? CHALIAN: It's a good question. His overall job approval in this poll is nowhere near where an incumbent president would want to be. 40 percent of Americans approve of the job Donald Trump is doing, 57 percent disapprove.

And to your point, Wolf, look where that 40 percent stacks up historically, with his modern era predecessors. He's numerically closer to Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, two presidents who lost re-election battles and only served one term, than he is to Barack Obama or George W. Bush, or Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, the four two-term presidents in recent time. So, he's not on the right side of that historic chart that where he would want to be right now.

BLITZER: You know, I want to go back to Dr. Hotez for a moment. We don't know much about his lungs. You've suggested perhaps the President actually has pneumonia,

HOTEZ: Well, it's certainly possible. And we know this virus causes terrible injury to the lungs, to the pulmonary system and causes terrible vascular injury, it causes neurologic injury.

[17:50:04]

And whether or not these interventions turned him around, it's hard to say, but that's quite the possibility. And I think the other piece to this is, so many Americans do not have access to those interventions. And, you know, the President is privileged because of his status as President. So when he came out with that tweet, just now saying, great interventions, I feel great, it was just so tone deaf to all those Americans who perished because they didn't have access to the monoclonal antibodies and the remdesivir, or the impact on their families.

And we need him to turn this around. We need him to come out of this feeling that this is a devastating virus, that he's going to redouble efforts to control it to prevent us from getting the 300,000 deaths. And what he's clearly showing us in this tweet is, all he can say is, I feel great.

He did say one thing, though, that was right, which is he congratulated Walter Reed National Medical Center, which is one of our great institutions. But beyond that, it was beyond disappointing. It was scary, actually, that he still doesn't see COVID-19 as the threat that that it is the greatest public health catastrophe in the history of our nation over the last 100 years.

BORGER: Wolf, if I could just quickly add something. I mean, imagine the impact it would have, if the President of the United States came out and said, wear a mask. You know, after all of these, wear a mask. That would have an immense impact on the country, would save people's lives. Instead he's saying, you know, I really understand COVID now because it happened to me.

BLITZER: Yes. Yes, and he said, don't be afraid of COVID instead of saying wear a mask. All right, everybody stand by. With all of these going on Election Day, clearly fast approaching and there is growing, there's growing issues involving mail-in ballots, voter suppression, and more. Our Political Correspondent Abby Phillip is working this part of the story for us. Abby, the election now is less than a month from -- a month away.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, less than 30 days away from the election. And today, we are learning more about a return to USPS delays in some parts of the mail that they deliver. This is all a breeding concern both among election officials and also from rank and file voters that they potentially cannot trust the mail system ahead of this election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CEDRICK BROWN, DETROIT VOTER: I'm not comfortable sending my ballot through the mail. Rather just come in, and drop it off.

PHILLIP (voice-over): As millions of voters begin casting their ballots in person or by mail, the Postal Service acknowledging in court documents that there has been a significant drop in first class on time mail delivery. The USPS saying it will increase staffing and make other changes to fix the problem. In battleground Michigan, voting is ramping up and so are the worries from voters.

MARTEZ ROBERTSON, DETROIT VOTER: I want to personally make sure it got handed in. With all the talk of problems with the mail and that sort of thing, I want to be sure.

PHILLIP (voice-over): In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott is facing at least two separate federal lawsuits after he issued an executive order restricting ballot drop boxes to one per county because he feels they'll be more secure. Opponents say this is no less than voter suppression.

CHRIS HOLLINS, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS, CLERK: Make it so that our voters who have disabilities, our elderly voters have to drive over an hour, more than 50 miles in some cases to drop off their mail ballot. It's unfair, it's prejudicial, and it's dangerous.

PHILLIP (voice-over): Today, millions of voters have just hours left to register to vote for the 2020 general election, including competitive states like Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Texas. Voting rights groups in Florida are scrambling to help some ex-felons get registered to vote before today's deadline by paying off their court fees and fines owed before they can register. Already, some 2.6 million general election ballots have been cast, according to CNN, and Edison researches survey of election officials in 24 states reporting voting data.

And in six of those states where party data is available, registered Democrats make up more than half of the ballots returned. In Pennsylvania, ongoing disputes over the changing ballot rules, poll watchers, new voting machines and the spread of disinformation are adding to the challenges some from the President himself.

TRUMP: They had Trump written on it and they were thrown in a garbage can. And this is what's going to happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: Now, Wolf, President Trump has been tweeting from his hospital room about mail-in voting and mail-in voting, in general, he's been urging his supporters to go out and vote but he has also been urging his supporters to sign up as poll watchers. This is something that has Democrats concerned that this could be a form of voter intimidation come November 3rd, Wolf?

BLITZER: Very important stuff indeed. All right, thanks very much. Abby Phillip reporting.

[17:55:01

There's breaking news we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're standing by for President Trump to leave the hospital return, to the White House as he battles COVID with growing questions tonight about his condition and his treatment.

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BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news. We're standing by for President Trump to be discharged from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this hour.