'This Week' Transcript 5-24-20: Dr. Deborah Birx
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, May 24.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, May 10, 2020 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.
MARTHA RADDATZ, "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: Critical juncture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We're moving into an important few weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: All 50 states easing restrictions, as an anxious nation observes Memorial Day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Playing golf, if you're very careful, playing tennis with marked balls.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: And President Trump doubles down on reopening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: As the CDC director warns of a second wave, the president has said the country will not close a second time. Where we go next in the race to reopen.
Our guests this morning, Dr. Deborah Birx from the White House task force, analysis from Tom Bossert and Dr. Atul Gawande.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on African-Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: A nation divided.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: What lessons have you learned throughout this?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: ABC's special series on how COVID-19 is exposing America's fault lines.
And Biden blunders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Under fire, as the V.P. search ramps up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: You want to have somebody who feels completely comfortable disagreeing with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel take us inside the veepstakes process, all that, plus our powerhouse roundtable.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."
Here now, co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
Good morning, and welcome to "This Week" on a Memorial Day weekend like no other.
These are scenes from this weekend, as the country opens up, presenting a major test for social distancing. While we did see thinner crowds and masks in some areas like Ocean City, Maryland, we also saw dense crowds like this in Port Aransas, Texas.
And while people are still heading for beaches, they are not traveling far. Last year, Memorial Day weekend brought the TSA one of its busiest traveling days ever, screening roughly 2.8 million passengers. This year, the agency screened fewer than 350,000, an 88 percent drop.
Things could soon change with all 50 states gradually opening.
But we have also reached a different milestone, a painful reminder that the horrific loss from this pandemic is still with us, the flags at half-staff at the White House as we near 100,000 deaths.
"The New York Times" devoting its entire front page to the names of 1,000 victims of the virus.
But President Trump is determined to get back to normal, golfing for the first time in more than two months, as the total number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. steadily climbs past 1.6 million.
Governors are working to get back to some semblance of normal, but key questions remain. One Alaska mayor has captured the dilemma so many are facing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERT COTTLE, MAYOR OF WASILLA, ALASKA: My worst nightmare is with -- we have to go backwards.
If I have to go from phase three/four back down to phase one, how do you do that? You already let everybody out. How do you catch them and put them back in?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: For more on this, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx joins us now.
Good morning, Dr. Birx.
We now have all 50 states gradually opening up, but, Saturday, North Carolina reported the highest one-day number of COVID cases with 1,107. They call it a notable and concerning increase.
Arkansas also reporting a second wave, and Minnesota is reaching capacity in its ICU.
Should these states now scale back on relaxing the rules, given these statistics?
BIRX: I think it's really important -- and thank you for the question -- to really understand what's driving those outbreaks.
And we have been working with every county and state and local official, both through the CDC and through the governors, through the governors' calls, to really encourage proactive testing.
So, some of this is increased testing in areas where we know are the highest risk, whether it's nursing homes, whether it's areas where people work and sleep and stay together or transport together, and really getting proactive testing out there to find cases before there's community spread.
I think, you know, from the Arkansas case, a lot of that was associated by a social gathering. And that's why we really made it clear that, during this reopening, social gatherings should not be more than 10 people, even if they're outside, because you still need to maintain that social distancing.
RADDATZ: But -- but -- exactly, but you said Friday that people can go out to beaches this weekend as long as they stay distanced, but when you look at the images of these large crowds at beaches on Saturday, at outdoor restaurants, water parks, not keeping social distance. Does this still make you confident that reopening beaches and parks was the right call?
BIRX: I think it's our job as public health officials every day to be informing the public of what puts them at risk. And we have made it clear that there's asymptomatic spread. And that means that people are spreading the virus unknowingly. And this is unusual in the case of respiratory diseases in many cases. So, you don't know who's infected.
And so we really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical. And if you can't social distance and you're outside, you must wear a mask. These are items that really critical to protect individuals.
We've learned a lot about this virus. But we now need to translate that learning into real changed behavior that stays with us so that we can continue to drive down the number of cases.
RADDATZ: But I guess that's my point, you're not seeing it across the country. You're not seeing it at those beaches.
BIRX: And I think that's our job to continue to communicate. And I think we have to communicate through different venues, making sure that our generation sees and our Millennials can help us get that message out there, of how to be together socially yet distant. And I think there is a way to do that. Americans are amazingly innovative. And I think we really just need to have better continuous communication on how important that is. And then highlighting these issues that come up like in Arkansas with this pool party.
This is why it's really important that you maintain those distances. And again to speak to those who are vulnerabilities and co-morbidities. Both in phase one and phase two of reopenings, we have asked you to continue to shelter in place, because we know that those co-morbidities put you at a greater risk for more significant disease.
And so those two pieces need to continue to happen where people who have co-morbidities are continuing to shelter, while those who don't are going out, but are maintaining social distances so they're not spreading to others.
RADDATZ: And Dr. Birx, the president on Friday called on governors to open houses of worship right now. And yet churches have been found to be one of the biggest super spreaders. One asymptomatic person in Washington State infected as many as 53 people during choir practice. In Chicago, a parishioner came down with the virus by sitting within a row of an infected person.
You said on Friday that maybe some places should wait. What are your concerns there?
BIRX: I think there's two pieces that are important. Before the president made that announcement, he asked the CDC to get their guidance to churches up, so that churches could reopen safely. So that guidance is up there and available to all churches and congregates to understand how to worship together safely.
Certainly worshiping outside, maintaining social distancing, and you know, obviously not having physical contact with each other and that's -- I know that's difficult. We all have made difficult behavioral changes, and that needs to continue to happen. But the guidance was up before the churches were asked to reopen. And I think that's really important that both with opening up America again, those guidelines went out before we stopped the 30-day stop the spread that was again after the 15, which was 45 days total. This only works if we all follow the guidelines and protect one another.
RADDATZ: And Dr. Birx, we're approaching the very sad milestone of 100,000 deaths due to COVID. It's a stunning figure. Do you have any reason to think that number is inflated? And do you agree with Dr. Fauci that the death count is almost certainly higher?
BIRX: I've said from the beginning that we'll follow the data. And we provide the data that's integrated between multiple reporting sites. And we have never altered the death numbers. And in this country, we've been very inclusive.
I will tell you always, with any pandemic and any time people are fighting to save other people's lives, it's difficult to count at the early part of the epidemic. And we will have time to look back and really ensure that we found all of those cases.
Each of those cases and each of those deaths are very important to understand, because we're a different country than the other countries that who have been infected. We want to understand what is the risk to 30-year-olds, 45-year-olds, what are our risks to children? How do we prevent serious disease? And that's why all of this information together is really important to continue to get and continue to validate.
RADDATZ: And Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci says it is inevitable that there will be a second wave of COVID-19, but President Trump says, we are not going to close the country if there is a second wave.
Is that the right approach?
BIRX: I think we're trying to learn right now very carefully about how you reopen safely. You know, we act like we've actually done this before and besides 1918 and 1919, we’ve not ever closed parts of America, and even then, the whole country wasn't closed.
We're trying to understand during this period of coming out of the closure, how do we maintain openness and safety? And I think that's what we're going to be learning through May, June and July.
And also, I want to be very clear to the American people -- we're preparing for that potential fall issue, both in PPE, which is protective devices both in ventilators, stockpiles and ensuring that we're really pushing on therapeutics and vaccine developments so we can be ready if the virus does come back in a significant way.
RADDATZ: But you don't see the country closing down again?
BIRX: It's difficult to tell and I really am data-driven, so I’m collecting data right now about whether governors and whether states and whether communities are able to open safely.
And what do I mean by that? We have to do much better with proactive testing -- not just count the number of tests we've done. That’s great, but really ensure those tests are being applied in a way that we find the asymptomatic cases.
It is much easier to find symptomatic cases, because people are stick. And when people are sick, they’re often not out and about, particularly if they have a severe case of COVID with high fever.
What I’m worried about is, what are we putting in place to find asymptomatic cases?
This is why we've asked for proactive, 100 percent testing of all residents and workers, and then proactive ongoing testing of workers in nursing homes before nursing homes reopen for any kind of visitation. Proactive testing where people are living together in large groups, whether they’re living together to serve a meatpacking plant or agricultural workers, or transport it together.
We know all of these pieces are what we call risk for super spreading events. I really want to call them “events” rather than targeting individuals because individuals are unknowingly spreading the virus. So, let's talk about events.
But all of this proactive testing needs to be in place and needs to continue to be in place because that will determine safely remaining open in the fall.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks so much for joining us this morning, Dr. Birx.
BIRX: Thank you.
RADDATZ: Let's get more on all of this now with ABC News contributor and former homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital surgeon and staff writer for “The New Yorker”, Dr. Atul Gawande.
Welcome to both of you.
And, Tom Bossert, I want to start with you. You and I have talked regularly over the past few months about the lessons the country is learning from this experience and you say the big one is that staying at home has worked, that's why we're able to slowly reopen. And yet there are many who believe that the country overreacted and I think you’ve seen a lot of them on the beaches.
What would you say to them?
TOM BOSSERT, FORMER TRUMP HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: Yes, good morning, Martha.
I would say that my now biggest worry becomes that that conclusion is negative learning. The idea of believing that the shelter in place approach didn't work prevents us from again using it.
And the plan from the beginning was never to enter into a nationwide lockdown, a blanket lockdown. We had to do that because we waited so long and because we didn't have the testing. It was so late.
But the idea now of getting out of that shelter in place, you know, restriction isn't to get out of it forever. It’s to relax a little bit. Dr. Gawande’s pillars are very important, we’ve come to them in a moment.
But it's to have the flexibility to return to them as needed in a localized fashion to prevent us from having to get into autumnal nationwide lockdown again.
So, I wished Dr. Birx had said that it is the plan so that people don't view it as failure when it becomes necessary.
RADDATZ: And, Dr. Gawande, you had a fascinating piece in “The New Yorker” outlining those four pillars, as Tom mentioned. It was a strategy for reopening based on your experience at the hospital -- hygiene, distancing, screening, masks.
But you also said there's a fifth pillar that's arguably the most difficult and that is culture. Can you elaborate on that?
DR. ATUL GAWANDE, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN’S HOSPITAL SURGEON: Yes, part of this is the idea of masks as -- you know, we're having a debate about safety versus freedom. Keep me safe, leave me alone.
Masks are about the idea that I’m going to protect you, you protect me.
And further part of the four pillars is, paying attention to symptoms -- screening every day in the workplace, or even when you go into stores for whether you have a fever, sore throat, even sniffles, and those can be indicators of -- of illness. Our culture has to be one where we say, look, if I feel like I'm even mildly sick, I need to stay home.
A case in Missouri of the hair dresser who went to work every day, wore a masks, but had coronavirus symptoms for eight days and exposed a hundred people, the masks aren't perfect. Our social distancing isn't perfect. Our handwashing isn't perfect. But if you put these four things together, it work.
MARTHA RADDATZ, "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: And, Dr. Gawande, the majority of American people do feel better and safer at home. So if you are one of those people who is socially distancing and doing exactly what you say, but you are out with others who are not, are you still safe?
GOWANDA: Well, there is a calculated risk going on right here and we are, as Dr. Birx said, we're learning how to work with one another. It's not safe to be, you know, out en masse. You heard -- she referred to the Arkansas pool party where, you know, it is safer outside and yet if we're all within -- you know, close together, not paying attention to doing all four parts of this, including staying home if you're at all symptomatic, several of the people at that pool party have become infected. So you have to be able to put the pieces together and we're learning how to do that.
RADDATZ: And --
GOWANDA: And you have to be able to gently remind one another, this is what we need to do together to keep each other safe.
RADDATZ: And that may be the hard part.
And -- and, Tom Bossert, we just have about 30 seconds left here. We've seen cultural resistance play out in protests. And not only has the president encouraged them, he also continues to not wear a mask in public. He's out golfing. His campaign is sending make America great signs along beaches where it's hard enough to keep people apart. This can't be helpful.
BOSSERT: Yes, do as I say not as I do isn't very -- very useful to reinforcing what the doctor just said. You know, instead of focusing on what you can't do this weekend, a couple of things you should do, wear a mask. It's common decency. Pray and think about those that passed in our former wars and -- for Memorial Day, but also those that passed in the last three months, 100,000 souls have been lost in this country, and then make sure you remember to wash your hands and remain socially distant even though the shelter in place rules have been lifted.
RADDATZ: That message from both of you again and again. And I thank you both.
Up next, a deep dive into Joe Biden's vice president search. Who will he pick? Will it be someone from a crucial swing state? And how will those controversial comments about black voters affect his choice? Nate Silver weighs in.
Plus, an inside look at the veep stakes process with Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STACEY ABRAMS (D), FORMER GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Of course, I would be honor to run for vice president with the nominee.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: If he asked you to be his running mate, would you say yes?
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Yes.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Obviously, I would be honored if I were being considered.
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): If asked, I would be honored to serve alongside Joe Biden.
MARGARET HOOVER, PBS: Would you say yes if he’d asked you to be his V.P.?
SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I certainly would say yes.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: I have had a conversation with some folks. But it was just an opening conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS HOST: Just some of the many potential vice presidential picks Joe Biden is considering. The list is all female and includes senators, governors, several women of color and some former rivals. But conventional wisdom dictates the candidates try to select a running mate from a battleground state in hopes of swaying voters there.
So, we asked FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver, do you buy that?
NATE SILVER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Joe Biden has got a long list of potential running mates ranging from big names of blue states like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, to up-and-comers in battleground states like Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Amy Klobuchar is from Minnesota, a state Hillary Clinton won by less than two points in 2016. So, it’s more of a purple state than you'd think. Meanwhile, you have seats that are going from red to purple like Georgia, where Stacey Abrams could be the pick.
But it's hard to find examples where the V.P. really moved the needle. Paul Ryan didn't help Mitt Romney win Wisconsin in 2012 for example.
Now, Clinton did win Virginia with Tim Kaine, remember him, in 2016. The state had voted for Obama twice in a row already.
I’ve done my own research on this and found the V.P. effect is probably real but pretty small, maybe around 2 percentage points. But, hey, you might say, voters don't care about the V.P. anyway, so why not pick up a couple of points in some big important swing state?
The problem is that the advantage is bigger in the smaller states, say Wyoming, where voters might have a more personal relationship with the candidate. Sarah Palin, in low population Alaska might be worth (ph) six or seven points to John McCain, for example. But Alaska only has three electoral votes. On the other hand, Whitmer from densely populated and electorally rich Michigan might be worth one or two points to Biden.
But these are not ordinary times. Biden is 77 years old and we're in the midst of pandemic. Voters might put more stock in experience. More of them might figure he would serve only one term, and want the Democrat who could win in 2024.
So, no, I don't buy that Biden needs to pick a V.P. from the swing state. He should just pick the best person for the job.
RADDATZ: And our thanks to Nate.
Rahm Emanuel and Chris Christie are up next with an insider’s look at the V.P. vetting process and how changing norms for potential running mates might affect the 2020 ticket.
We will be right back.
RADDATZ: Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel are standing by, ready to go.
We will be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: If you is a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, you ain't black.
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD, BREAKFAST CLUB HOST: It don't have nothing to do with Trump, it has to do with the fact I want something for my community. I would love to see...
BIDEN: Take a look at my record, man.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: You're saying he still hasn't shown you why you would vote for him specifically.
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD: A black woman running mate is necessary, especially after today.
I guess when we see a black person voting for Trump, you know Trump is a threat to marginalize people in this country, it does make you question how much that person cares about his people. So, I understand the statement, it's just a shock coming from a white male like Joe Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: Some fallout from that tense interview between Joe Biden and radio host Charlamagne tha God. It comes as Biden has acknowledged the next stage of the vice presidential vetting is about to begin. And so we thought we'd call on two of our own colleagues who has quite a bit of experience with that process, as we debut a new segment on our program, the Powerhouse Players with ABC News contributors Republican Chris Christie and Democrat Rahm Emanuel. They will offer insight and analysis like nobody else as the 2020 election ramps up.
And Rahm, let's get right to it. You heard it right there. Joe Biden putting his foot in his mouth. He apologized for being so cavalier, but where does this go from here?
RAHM EMANUEL, FORMER CHICAGO MAYOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I think what it does is obviously it influences the vice presidential selection. Everybody that tells you it doesn't isn't being honest. It has an impact on it, a weight on the scale, et cetera. And I think I give the Biden campaign credit for immediately jumping on it and trying to deflate it, everybody is united in the party with a single goal of beating President Trump.
I would step back, though, and say it violated a simple number one rule, you have to project that you're going to earn every vote, fight for every vote, just like you're going to fight for this country. And what this said underneath was, I'm going to get your vote no matter what I do because the other guy is worse than me, and that violates politics 101.
RADDATZ: But Chris, the Trump campaign was immediately out with ads criticizing Biden. Does that continue?
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, of course it does. And here's the problem, Rahm and I have talked about this before, the Biden campaign should do everything they can to keep Joe Biden in the basement and stop talking, because as soon as he starts talking he starts to create problems. He's in a phase of the campaign right now where it's really a referendum on the president unless he turns it into a binary choice. And by doing things like he just did, he's turning into a binary choice.
And Rahm compliments the Biden campaign for diffusing it, they've had plenty of practice in trying to diffuse these things, and they're going to have plenty more, I suspect.
In terms of the impact on the vice presidential pick, though, I hope it doesn't impact it, because if it does, he could take himself down. The McCain/Sarah Palin route, which is not the place he wants to go. In my view, this is a first do no harm pick for Vice President Biden.
RADDATZ: And Rahm, Biden was already under some pressure to choose a black woman as running mate, he says multiple are under consideration. Does this increase the pressure and the likelihood he will chose a black woman?
EMANUEL: It -- it adds a weight, obviously, to that effort. And I think, you know, I -- I believe, and I think you have to look at the history of vice presidents. Used to pick a vice president, one do no harm, two, balance your weakness, whether that's geographic or ideological.
When President Clinton picked Al Gore, an adjacent, southern moderate, Tennessee to Arkansas, he changed the paradigm from balance to partnership. And I think that if you look at -- it's not like George Bush had to worry about Wyoming or President -- or Senator Barack Obama had to worry about Delaware's electoral votes. They answered a political part of the equation, but they also added a partnership element.
And I think in the end of the day, the most important vetting after you get to the final three will be, does president -- senator -- Vice President Joe Biden see this person as his partner in making these critical decisions? And that, to me, will be the element that mounts because when you look at Sarah Palin, she did not fulfill John McCain's message, themes and who he was as a character and it became apparent to voters that it was an impulse choice, not a real choice of a partnership.
RADDATZ: And -- and -- and, Chris, Biden has committed to selecting a woman. Does that box him in? Was that a good idea?
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, it's his call, right? And what it does is it eliminates about 50 percent of the population. But that's his call.
I think that, you know, here it's even more stark, Martha. And Rahm didn't mention one thing that I think is very important. Joe Biden, if elected, will be 78 years old with a history of some health issues, you know, going into this. So the American people are going to be looking at this a little bit different than a partnership. They're going to be looking at this person to say, can I see this person as president even more starkly than they do with a normal vice president pick. I don't think anybody was worried about Barack Obama prematurely dying in office. I don't think anybody was worried about George W. Bush in that regard. And so looking at this choice, you need to look at it that way as well given Senator Biden's -- Vice President Biden's age and some of his history.
I've gone through this process twice myself in being vetted. And the partnership matters significantly. There's no doubt. But also that person has to be able to see you, but more importantly the American people, in this instance, has to see that choice as someone they can see as president of the United States in the next four years.
EMANUEL: That -- that -- well, two -- two things, Martha, I would say to -- I want to pick up on that.
One, it's why it's more than do no harm. This is additive. It's a very different flip from past choices. And, second, when you look from 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, all the gains Democrats have made are among suburban women voters with a college education. And by saying he wants a vice president who's a woman, he is building on a series of momentums, the biggest drop for Donald Trump from 2016 all the way to where we are today, this Sunday, on Memorial Day, has been women in the suburbs. That's where the gains for congressional races, gubernatorial races have been, Senate races have been, state house capitals.
And so I would say this is a smart -- he's made a decision. It is what it is. But it also indicates and signifies where the biggest gains have been among Democrats for new voters, who I don't even think are additional. They're now part of the base of any calculation of Senate candidate's making a gubernatorial candidate or a presidential in a swing state.
RADDATZ: And, Chris, you mentioned the vetting process. So you -- you been vetted by the Trump campaign, by the Romney campaign. Take us through what's happening now, to that process. How will that work?
CHRISTIE: Well, the candidates who are being vetted have put together a voluminous amount of documents. We were requested by the Romney campaign to give ten years of tax returns, every newspaper article you could find that had mentioned you, and -- and then go through an exhaustive questionnaire about anything that could possibly embarrass the presidential nominee.
And then, in both instances, went through -- and that's probably the stage they're getting to now, where they're going to start to review those documents and then interview. And the questions, at least in the Romney process and the Trump process, were based off of your questionnaire and things that they wanted to probe deeper on and their own vetting that they did based off of your things.
I can tell you that when I was going through the Trump vetting, A.B. Culvahouse, a well-respected Washington, D.C., lawyer, interviewed me for six hours based off of all of the information that they had gathered. And so it's a pretty exhaustive process. My guess is that they're moving towards developing their in-person questions now. And those people will start being interviewed by the designees of the Biden campaign.
And it was a -- at least for both the Romney and Trump campaigns, it was a pretty rigorous process.
And I'd add one more thing to what Rahm said, it -- it can be an additive choice by picking a woman, but only if that woman is perceived as qualified and ready to be president. And so, if he reaches based upon other factors, for someone who the public doesn’t see as qualified, then I think that will be a negative for his campaign, not a positive.
RADDATZ: And our thanks to our powerhouse players.
Coming up, with reports of new coronavirus cases steady or declining in most states, the nation's capital remains a hot spot and is extremely worrisome to health officials.
I spoke with Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser about that and the disparities of race and class amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Our special ABC News series “Pandemic: A Nation Divided” is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Our current healthcare system has so much of our economic and socioeconomic inequity reflected on who's able to go to doctor, who's able to afford a prescription and who’s able to get preventative care.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We know there's a disparity and this is exacerbating it. Communities of color, minority communities and poor communities don't have adequate health care and haven’t for a very long time.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): If you live in the rural parts of South Carolina, whether you’re black or white, the reality of it is getting to a doctor is harder than it's ever been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: All this week, ABC News has taken an in-depth look at the racial and socioeconomic disparities stemming from this pandemic. We've shared their stories, families who have endured unfathomable loss, workers putting themselves at risk to feed their families and ours.
This morning, we take a closer look at the many communities of color hardest hit by the virus. Neighborhoods around the country, part of a nation divided.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Had she been anything but black or brown, I think she would have gotten the care that she needed, they would not have sent her home to them.
RADDATZ: Francine Jefferson says that being a black front line worker in Mississippi may have cost her sister-in-law her life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of them are considered essential worker, right? To feed American families. Now, her family is without their mother.
RADDATZ: From the Deep South to the Midwest, from the Navajo Nation, to our nation's capital, the global pandemic exacerbating longstanding inequalities in the country.
BEATRICE EVANS, DC RESIDENT: Second-class citizens. The playing field is not level, never has been, don’t like -- don’t like it will be.
RADDATZ: In Washington, D.C., African-Americans make up 46 percent of the population but nearly 80 percent of coronavirus deaths.
MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D), WASHINGTON, DC: When I saw that hypertension and diabetes and heart disease were conditions that were really making the coronavirus complicated for people, I knew that we had to be in communities where we saw those pre-existing conditions.
RADDATZ: I met D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods, where she was touring United Medical Center, the hospital now ready to open up a new COVID wing, where ramped-up testing is being encouraged as well.
BOWSER: So, we have been very, very focused on getting the word out to people about getting tested, isolating and staying at home when they can. But we know so many people that have been affected by infection and death are doing essential work.
RADDATZ: It really is just much more harder to stay home, as you say. It’s -- they're essential workers.
BOWSER: All of us, who are going to the grocery stores, can ride transit, or getting our trash picked up, when you look at Washington, those are largely African-Americans who are doing that work.
RADDATZ: Similar disparities in Bronx where black and Latino residents are twice as likely to die from COVID than anywhere else in New York City.
RITCHIE TORRES, NEW YORK CITY COUNCILMAN: I have never seen just a more overwhelming sense of desperation in my district.
RADDATZ: City Councilman Ritchie Torres told our Juju Chang that social distancing in the projects he grew up in and now represents is impossible.
TORRES: My maternal family has been living here for three generations.
My mother is 60. She has hypertension. So you have to maintain distance from your own loved ones for their own protection.
JUJU CHANG, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Poverty takes a toll on the body.
TORRES: The difference in life expectancy between the South Bronx and the Upper East Side of Manhattan is 10 years. So, poverty is poison.
DR. MARINA DEL RIOS, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Almost every patient that I saw that was COVID-positive with Latino.
RADDATZ: In Chicago, Dr. Marina Del Rios works the front line of this crisis.
DEL RIOS: In minority neighborhoods especially, the number of positive cases is twice and sometimes even three times the number of positive cases that we're seeing in white, more affluent neighborhoods.
RADDATZ: Del Rios told our Deborah Roberts, we're seeing the impact of health care systems that have been mistreating minorities for generations.
DEBORAH ROBERTS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: When a person of color walks into a hospital, are they already at a disadvantage?
DEL RIOS: There are multiple studies that have demonstrated that, when you're a person of color, you are more likely to be triaged as less urgent for similar illnesses as a person who's white.
RADDATZ: Back in D.C., a sense of urgency to right some historical wrongs.
(on camera): I have heard you talk about having local and national leaders really look at the African-American community and say, we have to address this health problem.
BOWSER: Well, it's more than health, right? We have to look at the building blocks of health, having safe housing, having access to clean water, having access to good food and quality education and good-paying jobs.
Those are all of the things that leads to a healthy community.
RADDATZ: So many people working to solve this crisis.
The roundtable is up next. We will be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Could you just take us through your thought process why you decided not to wear a mask?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I did wear. I had one on before. I wore one in this back area.
But I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.
I was given a choice. And I had one on in an area where they preferred it. So, I put it on. And it was very nice. It looked very nice, but they said they're not necessary here.
QUESTION: What about the example that it would set for other Americans to see you wearing a mask?
TRUMP: Well, I think it sets an example. I think it sets an example both ways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RADDATZ: President Trump at a Ford plant in Michigan this week highlighting the cultural and political divide over mask wearing and so many other restrictions.
Let's talk about all that with the roundtable now, with our chief White House correspondent, Jon Karl, out with his new bestseller, "Front Row at the Trump Show," chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas, and Washington bureau chief for the Associated Press Julie Pace.
Welcome to all of you.
And, Jon, I want to start with you.
The partisan messaging on coronavirus is clear. The president travels the country, goes to briefings without a mask, pushing for bolder reopening steps, while Democrats largely urge caution, and Joe Biden remains in his basement.
How do you see that strategy playing out for President Trump?
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, pleasant. Trump clearly wants to project strength by not wearing a mask, by getting out there again.
I think you're going to now see him making at least a couple of trips a week outside of Washington. He wants to portray himself as the person that is trying to reopen this country and get back to noble -- but -- normal.
But, remember, Martha, Donald Trump is somebody who instinctively understands his base better than anybody. And he knows that a part of that base believes this entire threat from the beginning has been overblown.
Part of that base, on the fringes, but measurable, are people who think that Anthony Fauci, Dr. Fauci, has been part of a conspiracy to undermine President Trump.
These are the people who refuse to wear masks. He's playing to those people as well. There's a real risk here, though. And you see it in the polling. Donald Trump is now trailing in several recent polls among senior citizens, the most vulnerable population.
And that was the population, that was the group, the demographic group, that voted for him overwhelmingly in 2016.
RADDATZ: And -- and certainly a risk, John, if the virus comes back in a very big way.
KARL: He's taking a gamble that there will not be a second wave, that we know from the medical experts has the potential to be worse than what we saw in the first wave.
And Julie, how does Joe Biden counter that?
PACE: Well, Joe Biden, right now, is taking the totally opposite approach by just staying home, that's his strategy here to not to be out traveling, to say that he's following the guidance of public health officials right now. He is trying to connect with voters virtually. It's been a little bit of a bumpy process, as you know most of us who are working from home know, it's not as kind of as clean and easy as when you're able to do your job in a normal way.
But I think the Joe Biden strategy, you know, more than anything else is just to try to point attention to the president's response to the pandemic, to make this a referendum election on Trump to focus on his missteps here, and I think increasingly as we hit, as you mentioned earlier in the program, this 100,000 death number, which is just extraordinary, to really emphasize what a lot of Democrats see as a lack of empathy from this president, a lack of real understanding about the very personal impact that this virus has had on so many families across this country.
RADDATZ: And Pierre, I want to go back to the issue of churches. The president has been issuing threats, going so far as to say he could overrule governors who don't allow churches to reopen, that's not something he really has the authority to do, does he?
THOMAS: Martha, a lot of legal scholars say he does not have that authority, but what he does have is the most powerful and influential law firm in the country in the Justice Department, and they could try to intervene. They have already put states on notice that churches and houses of worship must be treated in the same way that you treat businesses like stores and restaurants. If you're allowing them to open, the Justice Department is beginning to make the case you ought to allow houses of worship to open as well.
RADDATZ: And Jon, you touched on this a little bit, but the president meanwhile is clearly laying out this new rally strategy. If he can't hold rallies, he'll use official travel to visit swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona. These trips really have turned into campaign events, haven't they?
KARL: They have taken the place of campaign events. And if you talk to the president's political advisers they believe that he can be out in a more traditional campaign setting by the middle of summer, by July. Of course that is an open question, but he wants to get out there. He wants to get out, back at his rallies.
And it's interesting, Martha, to listen to the two parties planning for their conventions. Now both conventions are in August, late August. First, the Democrats then the Republicans. Democrats are very advanced in the planning for something that more resembles a virtual convention. And Republicans really don't even want to talk publicly, and not even much privately, about the alternatives to to a real convention for, you know, they're planning for Charlotte.
RADDATZ: And Julie, we have got the president out there, and we'll see more of him, do you think Joe Biden emerges from that basement? Does he get out in some fashion to campaign in the next month?
PACE: I do think we're going to start to see Joe Biden take some steps to get out of the basement, to get out his house. I don't think it's going to look like a traditional campaign rally kind of setting. But I do think that they are feeling some pressure to show a little more of a proactive stance here.
You know, as I mentioned, they really want to this to be a referendum election on Trump, but you do have to be careful when you do that to not lean completely on the idea of, hey, the other guy is bad, just vote for me as the alternative. You do have to start giving people a reason to vote for you as well. And in order to do that, you do need to be more of a visible presence.
RADDATZ: And Pierre, let's come back to Joe Biden's comments about black voters. You heard the comments he made. He seems to -- Charlamagne tha God, the radio host, seemed to give him a little bit of a pass, and a little bit of support. But does this really impact the black vote?
THOMAS: Martha, note to older white male candidates, do not tell black people what is black enough or who is black enough, it's just not going to fly.
Now I'm not sure how it's going to play. Some of the younger African-Americans voters, they don't like this notion of how Biden speaks about black people, sometimes they believe in some cases Democrats take black votes for granted. They're not down with that.
Some of the older African-American voters, again in a very diverse group, believe that when the president said things like s-hole countries, that they're good people on both sides in the situation of Charlottesville where you had white supremacists and Nazis show up and literally kill a woman, that this does not matter that much in the grand scheme of things.
But turnout is key, so it could matter.
RADDATZ: And Pierre while I have you there, I want to talk about the Michael Flynn case. Of course, former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the the FBI. The FBI now conducting its own internal review.
We've also got this controversy over unmasking.
Bring us up to date with that.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CHIEF JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you have this week, as you said, the FBI director ordering a review of how the Flynn case was covered and investigated. And you also have the situation where the Justice Department is trying to drop the case. The federal judge in that case is being very skeptical. He's pushing for hearings in which you will have an outside party and former prosecutor and judge make the case why that should not happen.
So Flynn has really become, I think, the symbol of whether the Russia investigation should have been started in the first place. But two things can be true at the same time, there may have been problems with how that interview was conducted, but no doubt he lied to the FBI, which is a federal crime.
RADDATZ: And -- and, Julie, one thing we are seeing is that Senate Republicans have -- have pretty much fallen in line behind the president, getting far more aggressive in helping the president seek retribution against his political enemies.
What's going on there?
JULIE PACE, "ASSOCIATED PRESS" WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. I mean this is a united force right now between the White House, the Justice Department and Senate Republicans, who, in a lot of ways, are doing the president's bidding when Rick Grenell, who was serving as the acting DNI, was declassifying, you know, information. It was senators, Senate Republicans, who were actually going forward and releasing that information publically.
And I think it shows that Republicans are onboard with the president's re-election strategy, which is a base strategy. It is not an expand the tent strategy. They know that the way that the president wins re-election and the way that they win, their party wins in the fall, is to get those Trump voters out in big numbers.
RADDATZ: And -- and, Jon, from your view, why are Republicans so anxious to re-litigate this Russia problem with just over five months into the election? Is this part of the bigger strategy?
JON KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly something that the president is keenly focused on and the Republicans take their cues from this , I think from the president.
But, Martha, it's -- it's important to point out that although Republicans are -- may be using this for political purposes to do -- to distract, there are real concerns, real issues surrounding that Michael Flynn investigation. And that doesn't mean that the Russia investigation started on false pretenses, but there are real concerns with the way the FBI conducted its interview with -- with Michael Flynn, the way they pursued that case. Real concerns regardless of whatever, you know, political motivations may beyond -- may be behind raising the issue right now.
RADDATZ: And -- and very quickly, Jon, on the mail-in voting. President Trump has talked about that a lot as -- as fraudulent. And there's no evidence that there's massive fraud.
KARL: No evidence of that. And there is a bipartisan movement in this country, Republicans and Democrats looking to have -- find a way to ensure voters can vote even if we're in a second wave of the pandemic. Mail-in voting is going to be part of that solution.
And thanks to all of you for joining us on this Sunday.
And on this Memorial Day, we honor those who have given their lives in service to our country. At Arlington Cemetery, soldiers all wearing masks this Memorial Day, placing flags at each gravesite honoring the nation's fallen heroes.
We also want to pay a special tribute to those veterans who have lived through battles, witnessed the horrors of wars, and lost their lives to an invisible enemy, COVID-19. More than 97,000 Americans have lost their lives to this virus. More than 1,100 of them veterans. This morning, and every morning, we think of those veterans and their families.
Thanks for joining us this morning. Have a good day.