Read Full Transcript EXPAND
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to “Amanpour and Company.” Here’s what’s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: They remain in good spirits. The president does have mild symptoms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Shock and shout in Florida as President Trump along with the first lady test positive for COVID-19. Tonight, the health of the first
couple and the health of a nation already in political turmoil and facing a consequential election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I’m sure that they’ll both stage a very strong recovery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And reaction from around the world. How has Boris Johnson governed since contracting COVID and how Putin’s special bubble keeps him
Welcome to the program, everyone I’m Christiane Amanpour in London.
Well-wishers around the world are sending messages to the president and first lady since they contracted coronavirus. The British prime minister,
Boris Johnson, who also had the virus called for a speedy recovery. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, hoped they will soon be completely
healthy again. And Trump’s Democratic rival, Former Vice President Joe Biden, has sent prayers and good wishes as well. And asked if he tested
negative today, he tweeted, I hope this serves as a reminder, wear a mask, keep social distance and wash your hands.
This story began when the president’s top aide, Hope Hicks, who had been with him tested positive on Thursday morning. Inexplicably, Trump then
travel to New Jersey for a fundraiser define his own administration’s guidelines. And this is what he said just hours before testing positive
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I just want to say that the end of the pandemic is in sight. And next year will be one of the greatest years in
the history of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But in fact, almost heart of all-American states are seeing a surge in the pandemic right now. The White House itself is in crisis with a
massive test and trace operation under way. The chief of staff confirms the president and first lady are showing “mild symptoms” but he insists they’re
feeling fine and working from isolation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: The American people can rest assured that we have a president that is not only on the job, who will
remain on the job, and I’m optimistic that he’ll have a very quick and speedy recovery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: But at 74 years old and clinically obese, Trump is a high risk COVID patient. Joining me now is Boris Lushniak. He’s the former acting
U.S. surgeon general and he’s dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
Welcome to the program.
This is a very, very serious situation when the head of the world’s superpower contracts what is a potentially deadly virus. Everybody wants to
know what next. Can I ask you from your medical perspective, and I’m not asking you to diagnose Trump himself, but what happens when somebody is
showing mild symptoms, what happens next? What should we expect in the next few days, let’s say?
BORIS LUSHNIAK, FORMER DEPUTY U.S. SURGEON GENERAL, DEAN, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, let’s, Christiane, put this into
perspective, right. Yesterday, over 46,000 people in the United States had that same news, right, 46,000. We’re given the news that they, in fact, are
COVID positive. And I don’t call them cases, I call them people who have turned positive, right, they are people. It happens to be that two of them
are the president and the first lady.
And in all those 46,000, we’re now looking at it from a public health perspective, which is what’s supposed to happen? What’s supposed to be done
at this point? And in essence, the word to all of them are the same, right, you have 10 days that you have to isolate. And in that time period, you
have to determine, right, hope for the best, expect the worst, look at the symptoms that come on, right, are you going to fall into that lucky
category of being totally asymptomatic, are you going to have mild symptoms as we hear the president is now experiencing, right, or are things going to
turn for the worst?
And to a large extent, it’s unpredictable. We know there are risk factors, some which the president has that basically portend the sense that we have
to be more careful with his prognosis than with others, younger individuals, individuals who aren’t obese. But at the same time, it’s
unpredictable what’s going to happen over the next 10 days with the president and the first lady.
They need to be monitored. They need to take isolation very seriously. And those individuals around them who have contact with them need to take
quarantine very seriously. And that’s really the message.
AMANPOUR: So, what — OK. What exactly does that mean? Because we understand there’s a big, you know, test and trace operation inside the
White House. And yet, we still saw, even today, the press secretary coming out, yes, she had a mask on but she took it off before she started speaking
to reporters who were, you know, not that far away from her. What would you expect to be happening in the White House right now beyond the careful
medical attention the first couple are getting?
LUSHNIAK: Well, just follow the recommendations that public health is giving to all those 46,000, right. Yes, you are unique in the White House,
yes, you’re getting tested all the time, right. It’s different than the other 46,000. And yet, as we know, the issue of false negatives in these
tests. The issue of us still learning about how quickly the virus evolves in our system, right. The idea of asymptomatic symptomatic spread,
transmissibility through aerosols. All this brings with it a certain amount of uncertainty.
Therefore, we’re telling all the other 46,000, which is, who are your close contacts? And for those contacts, we’re telling you, quarantine for 14
days. That means stay away from others. That means implement in your own lives the public health recommendations. Wear the mask, wash your hands,
stay away from others.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you something, because it goes to the heart of the matter and that is public trust and transparency? Clearly, President Trump
and this entire administration has squandered public trust given what they’ve said about the disease, the president himself, and now he has it.
And the completely conflicting instructions on how to best take care of yourself. Even after the chief of staff today said that the president is
showing mild symptoms, his former doctor, we’ve just seen on Fox News, even after Mark Meadows says, he’s showing mild symptoms. Saying, oh, the
I mean, what are they saying to people? What is this all about and how dangerous is that in a public health crisis?
LUSHNIAK: Well, again, it’s all about health communication here. The message shouldn’t be, oh, look at the president. He’s asymptomatic or only
has mild symptoms. After these next few days, I hope the message isn’t, oh, look, I had it and it really didn’t bother me much. The message right now
needs to focus on the 46,000 others who were diagnosed yesterday, right, and the 847 people who died and their family members, right. And the focus
needs to be on this. The focus needs to be on the idea that there’s a message in this and the message should be not it’s mild and look how easy
this was on me. The idea should be now is, look how transmissible this is, that even in that bubble, in that cocoon of the White House, this disease
So, to the rest of society, take care of yourselves. Follow the recommendations from public health because you don’t know where it’s coming
from, you don’t know how your body is going to deal with it and this is all risk-taking behavior. So, the message should be now, my hope is after these
10 days, wow, it even happened in the White House and now, this is my, you know, my optimistic tone, there’s a metamorphosis, the message is, this is
real. It’s out there. We have strategies to be able to prevent it. Please, everyone, take these strategies seriously.
Whether this is going to happen or not is unclear. But, you know, at some point, from a public health perspective, the key in communicating in public
health, tell people what you know, tell people what you don’t know, tell them what you’re going to do about what you don’t know. That’s a three sort
of problem approach and we’ve not seen that from this administration at all during the span of this pandemic.
AMANPOUR: I want to get back to President Trump’s condition himself. I mean, he has what you all have been talking about, are secondary
conditions. He is of a certain age. He’s in the old range. He’s also overweight, clinically obese. He is also, according to his doctors, has a
mild heart condition, according to reports from a trip he took to the doctor not so long ago, maybe a couple of years, and, you know, there’s a
buildup maybe of some plaque in his heart, et cetera. That has been talked about.
From your perspective from what you know about the statistics of those who get severe cases of COVID and maybe even die, how worried are you about his
LUSHNIAK: Well, I’m worried. And let’s just start with the age, right. Epidemiologically, he actually falls into that spectrum of the 65 to 74-
year-olds. He happens to be 74 years old. What do we know about that group? Five times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID, right, related
conditions. Not everybody, but compared to the younger populations, right, there’s a higher risk just based on age alone, right. More deaths in that
age group, right.
So, the disease requires more often hospitalization. It can result in fatalities, right, compared to a younger population. And then you bring in
the issue of the other problems that are on his medical checklist. Again, I’m not taking care of the president, I don’t have intimate knowledge of
his medical records, but looking at the records from June, guess what, you know, if I were seeing him as a patient I’d say, hey, listen. You know, I’d
be kind and I’d say your bordering on obesity.
Technically, he has a body mass index, a calculation of his height versus weight that puts him into the range of obesity. OK. You, can say you’re
overweight on the bad side of the spectrum, but you’re obese. Obesity alone is a higher risk profile for individuals who end up getting COVID-19. And
then you bring in sort of the unknowns, other co-morbidities, other diseases that may be out there such as potential, you know, heart disease,
mild forms or not, the reality is that just age alone puts him into a higher risk group. And if he were a patient of mine coming in at that age,
I’d be really worried and I would relay to them, here’s what you need to do, right, you need to stay away from others, you need to isolate, you need
to be monitored and you need to react to anything going bad.
Luckily, he’s being taken care of. But I’m sure — by, I’m sure, a very competent and good medical staff at the White House. He will be watched.
And our hope, my hope, is that he does well. But also, my hope is that if he does really well that he not turn around and make that the message, oh,
look how easy it was for me, right, that’s not the message we need to tell the other 46,000 people.
AMANPOUR: Well as, you know, that is what the president of Brazil said, oh, look how easy it was. I just had a mild case. And he showed around some
tablets, which we don’t know what they were but he claims that they were that, you know, hydroxychloroquine. And President Trump — obviously, we
got a tiny mash up of what he’s been saying to America about the severity of this disease is just play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know it is going away and it will go away and we’re going to have a great victory. I feel about vaccines like I feel about tests, this
is going to go away without a vaccine. The virus will. It will disappear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And obviously, those are just a few but he’s been saying it on a regular basis. So, again, as a matter of public health, because a lot of
his base, his fans, his supporters will believe that stuff even if he has it. I mean, they might even believe still that there’s some kind of hoax or
deep state, you know, activity going on around this. We know that this is a very, very dangerous situation of misinformation and disinformation around
the United States.
What do you — I mean, you said your hope is that he recovers and he can say, now, you all have to be careful. But this really vital that, isn’t it?
LUSHNIAK: It’s so vital right now. And even his statements, right, these are — this is information, this is mistruth or untruths being told, right.
Right now, as — you know, as we all know, right. Over 20 states in the United States in fact are experiencing an upward trend in the number of
people having COVID, right, now, right.
Yes, there has been a change and that mortality isn’t as high as it once was, but I’m bracing for even that to change potentially as we go further
into the fall season and potentially running into the influenza season concomitant with the COVID-19 pandemic. The reality is that, you know,
again, at some point, we have to. We in public health have to continue on this pathway of telling the truth, and I really can’t control what the
president says, I can’t control what his base believes in, but at some point, someone has to, you know, be able to be out there telling the truth.
And my hope, you know, this is — I tell my students all the time at the University of Maryland here, right, be — you know, be optimists in public
health. We have to be optimists, right, to be able to move ahead on this. And my optimistic tone is, Mr. President turn around, see what happened to
you, see what happened to your loved ones, see what happened to your staff, the friends around you and now, come out of this with a message that helps
46,000 people yesterday experience what he experienced. What I want him to do is become a role model finally in the midst of all this. Will it happen?
I don’t know. You know, it’s been a crazy world and a crazy year.
AMANPOUR: Wow. And this really puts the cherry on top of that. It really is a major turning point no matter which way it goes.
Dr. Lushniak, thank you very much, indeed, for joining me.
And now, just to point out and remind everybody, the United States does have the highest death toll, more than 200,000 have died. And this
diagnosis of the president is the most serious known health threat to a sitting U.S. president in decades. Who knows when or how we would have
known if the news of hope Hicks’s (ph) infection had not first been broken by reporters?
Trump’s team says he will continue his duties while recovering. But with 32 days to go before an election, how will this impact the campaign and the
constitution. My next guests are POLITICO’s chief Washington correspondent, Ryan Lizza, and the constitutional law professor, Deborah Pearlstein, who
served in the Clinton White House.
Welcome both to the program.
Let me ask you first, Ryan, because, I mean, this is not just one man’s health or one president’s health, it’s in the middle of such massive U.S.
and global political turmoil in the face of an election. You cover the election in Washington. Do you think this puts the election in chaos?
Obviously, the campaign is going to be somewhat disrupted in terms of public events and future debates.
RYAN LIZZA, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: I think the — a lot of that depends on the symptoms, right. If his condition worsens and he’s
in a situation, for example, that’s similar to, say, Boris Johnson in the U.K. who ended up in the ICU on oxygen and was sort of touch and go, that’s
a very, very serious situation, especially so close to an election because in the worst case, if he becomes incapacitated or even dies, and we should
point out that medical professionals say 90 percent chance that he’s going to recover and be fine, but he’s the most important person in the world.
So, it’s not completely irresponsible to discuss what happens in that 10 percent chance, that would throw things into a major, major chaos.
We have rules and procedures for dealing with that, but it’s — it would be a bit of a mess. In the short-term, there’s a question about whether he’ll
be able to be at the second presidential debate on October 15th. If he’s recovered and tests negative, I think he’ll be there. If he’s still sick, I
think he won’t.
Globally, a lot of American allies and adversaries are watching this closely. Stock markets are jittery. So, it’s a pretty serious and touch and
go situation right now until we know more information about where this is headed.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Deborah, because there is a lot of talk about the constitutionality of what might have to happen. You know, nobody wants
to go there but people are asking what if the president is incapacitated, what is the constitutional line of progression, what has to happen. We know
that George W. Bush, President W. Bush invoked the 25th Amendment for a couple of colonoscopy procedures. Can you just explain what that is and
what you think might or should happen in this situation?
DEBORAH PEARLSTEIN, PROFESSOR, CARDOZO LAW SCHOOL: So, sure. The 25th Amendment which was ratified only in 1967 does provide a set of rules for a
variety of eventualities. If the president — obviously, we hope this doesn’t happen, if the president does is or himself says, I am
incapacitated and I’m unable to fulfill the duties of my office, the 25th Amendment provides relatively straightforward procedures for the transfer
of authority to the vice president.
So, the example you mention from George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan invoked the same provision of the 25th Amendment, we’re undergoing this sort of mild
medical procedure but he was going to be under anesthesia, the president files a sort of brief declaration and the vice president is given authority
until the president is able to resume it.
When it gets more complicated is if the president himself doesn’t believe that he is incapacitated or incapable of carrying out his duties but those
around him do. And the 25th Amendment also provides a procedure that has never been used in U.S. history whereby the vice president and eight very
senior administration official, so cabinet officials of the executive branch, can determine — so, it takes nine of them, that the president is
simply unable to fulfill his duties because he is, for example, incapacitated as a result of physical illness.
If that happens and if the president contests that conclusion, the question goes to Congress, and that under the 25th Amendment it requires a two-
thirds vote of both houses of Congress to maintain the president’s removal from office.
Again, enormous number of open constitutional questions here, it’s not like there are cases that are raised to this in the past, this provision has
never been invoked or used but it is nonetheless much on people’s mind as we try to plan for what might happen in these extraordinary circumstances.
AMANPOUR: I’m going to get back to some of the line of succession. But first, I want to ask you, Ryan. You know, just go back to the debate for
instance., you know, there are doctors who are saying that potentially the president might have even been contagious then, who knows, we don’t — we
won’t — we don’t really know right now, but the timeline seems to suggest from the 26th of September all the way through yesterday, he was out and
about and there were almost no masks used at any, you know, major encounters and he had with plenty of people, including the nominee for the
Supreme Court and many other top ranking and ordinary people as well.
You saw and we all saw how he sort of kind of made light of mask wearing during the debate. He kind of mocked Joe Biden. He pulled one out of his
own pocket and say, I only wear it when I need to. But I want to play two other soundbites and ask you to talk about this politically. One is Chris
Christie who was in debate practice with him just before and the other is Donald Trump Jr. making fun of masks after the debate. Just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: And those wearing masks in the room when we were prepping the president during that period of time and we
were — the group was about five or six people in total.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And joining us now to respond, President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. You know, we’re both COVID tested. This is not —
DONALD TRUMP JR.: Yes, we’ve been tested. I don’t want to get — you know, they’ll throw in the gulag —
SEAN HANNITY: Oh, yes. Where’s my mask?
DON JR.: — for being close.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I mean, Ryan, do you think that — I mean, you heard what Chris Christie said, nobody in close proximity were wearing masks in the prep
room, inside, indoors. That debate hall was inside, you know, who knows what might have been, you know, airborne then. And you saw what his son and
Sean Hannity said, I mean, again, for the American people who watch that program, that network, making light of it. Do you have any anticipation
that it will change? What is the Conservative Press saying right now do you think or have you looked?
LIZZA: Yes. I have. I have. You can’t cover American politics in the Trump administration without watching Fox News and reading the Conservative Press
closely. And just one point on the Cleveland debate. I was there in Cleveland on Tuesday, the commission on presidential debates had a very
serious set up in conjunction with the Cleveland Clinic where everyone — I was tested — everyone who went into that space was tested. But part of
those rules was you had to wear masks in the debate hall itself.
And as you saw on TV, President Trump’s guests, including several family members took their masks off, they were asked to put them back on and
rebuffed the physician who even had masks to give them. And so, that is just one data point of the kind of laissez faire attitude that Trump and
people around him have had about mask wearing.
And in the — some people ask, why, what is this about? And I think it’s about two things. One, it’s about a denial of the severity of this crisis
because politically Trump believes that the worse this crisis is the worse it is for him politically. So, he spread a lot of denial about how bad it
is. And then, two, there is a sort of — I don’t know to describe it, but sort of machismo, you know, masculinity view that Trump has and a lot of
people around him have that masks make you look weak, right. He has criticized Joe Biden for always wearing a mask in public.
And so, just from a political imaging point of view, he sort of (INAUDIBLE) the masks. And a lot of his campaign strategy against Republicans in 2015
and ’16 and against Hillary Clinton and now, against Joe Biden has been about his health and virility, almost this Putin like self-image of
himself. And I think that — and that’s what seeps through, that’s what’s talked about on the right quite a bit when it comes to this stuff.
AMANPOUR: Deborah, I want to ask you about — again, about succession because the vice president obviously would be, obviously, in line. He’s
apparently been tested and he continues to be tested. So far, he’s negative and so is his wife. And then others of have said that Nancy Pelosi, as
speaker of the house, would be next. I’m going to play this little soundbite with her, but then I want to ask you, is that really
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: I’m said as the diagnosis that the president and first lady have. Maybe it is the pivotal moment to take us to
a different place as we fight this vicious virus based on science not on politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: So, that’s what she said, very similar to what Joe Biden said and what you heard the former surgeon general, acting surgeon general is
saying to us, that they hope this becomes a turning point. But in the meantime, yes, there’s seems to be some kind of provision that the speaker
of the house might take over if necessary, but there’s also apparently some dispute about that, that it could be disputed by the secretary of state.
Can you tell us, is there a constitutional third in line?
PEARLSTEIN: So, the constitution gives Congress the power to establish rules for the succession following the president and the vice president.
The constitution itself says the vice president is second in line. Beyond that, the constitution expressly gives Congress the power to enact a law
saying how the line of succession goes.
Congress has enacted such a law. It’s been on the books for a number of decades now, it’s called the Succession Act. And under that law, the
speaker of the House of Representatives of whatever party is third in line and fourth in line is the president pro tempore of the Senate who is
currently a Republican from Iowa, a Republican senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley.
So, that is what the statute provides, Congress has the power to enact that statute. Now, about 20 years ago or so, a couple of conservative legal
scholars raised a question about whether that was constitutional enactment not because Congress had the power to pass it but because the constitution
seemed to contemplate that officers would be next in line. I think there have been effective responses to that argument but, of course, none of this
has ever been tested before because it hasn’t come up.
In the meantime, I think there’s no question that that is what the law of the United States currently is, that’s what is provided and indeed, there
are rules for making that happen. So, one can imagine all kinds of problems arising, not just litigation but tremendous controversy in the United
States, obviously, if it comes to that. But there is little doubt that there is an act of Congress that says exactly that.
AMANPOUR: Thank you so much. And lastly to you, Ryan. I just want to get a quick comment to you.
AMANPOUR: You know, the White House did not put out the news of Hope Hicks’s infection, her positive test. That was Bloomberg reporting that
broke that news. Apparently, we’re told the White House also did not inform Joe Biden and his camp.
I just want to ask you what this means for you guys trying to know the truth, get the reporting and what it means for the public to have some
trust in what’s coming out of this White House even now.
LIZZA: Yes. I mean, look, we’ve discussed in this conversation some low percentage but scary possibilities if this goes the wrong direction for
President Trump and the American public is going to need to know on a daily basis how he’s doing, what his symptoms are, which direction this is going.
He might have a very mild case as many people do and be fine and be at that next debate in two weeks after a couple of negative tests.
On the other hand, it could go in a very different direction. And considering how close we are to the election and if something happens to
him, the kind of mess that that would create and considering, of course, the fact that he’s the president of the United States and this is a deadly
disease for a lot of people, we need accurate — a transparent White House with accurate information every day. We’ve never gotten that from this
White House, we all know that, and it’s going to require a very active aggressive press corps trying to find out information that’s only going to
be available to a very small number of people in the White House. So, we’ve got our job cut out for us in the next days and weeks.
AMANPOUR: Ryan Lizza, Deborah Pearlstein, thank you so much for joining us.
Now, with the announcement of his infection, President Trump joins an ever- growing list of world leaders to test positive for COVID-19. Amongst them, in July, Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, contracted the virus after
months of mockery and flouting social distance guidelines. And here in the U.K., the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, was admitted to intensive
care in April, leaving his cabinet to run the country while he recovered.
So, what does it mean for a country when their leader is taken out of action? Mark Landler is the London bureau chief for “The New York Times”
and he’s joining me now.
Mark Landler, you were also a White House correspondent. Just before I get to Boris Johnson and the international leaders, you know, you’ve seen and
heard a lot about and reported on the last major issue of a president being so, you know, gravely in danger was when President Reagan was shot in 1981.
Just — can you — I mean, back then I think the world did get constant medical updates. Can you sort of go back to that moment and remind how they
treated it and how it was dealt with?
MARK LANDLER, LONDON BUREAU CHIEF, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, you know, interestingly, that was obviously an attempted assassination, a very
violent caught on camera. But, you know, as with health issues involving presidents and prime ministers and others, there was reporting afterwards
that suggested that President Reagan was far more seriously wounded than some of the early news reports at that time suggested.
So, this question of how you communicate when a world leader is in a health crisis is not a new one. It goes back a long way, and, indeed, even further
back to other presidents, John F. Kennedy and Roosevelt.
But I do — to pick up on what Ryan said to you earlier, I do think it’ll be extremely important, given the context, being so close to an election.
Remember, Ronald Reagan had just recently been elected to his first term when he was shot.
So, this is a very different set of circumstances, arguably, a much more sensitive set of circumstances, and I think puts a greater obligation on
the White House to be as transparent as they can.
AMANPOUR: So, you were here. You reported the whole sort of trajectory of what happened to Boris Johnson, the British prime minister.
And we’re going to play just, again, a little bit of a mash-up of how he dealt with this issue of COVID when it first arose, up until he left
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I can tell you that I’m shaking hands continuously.
I was at a hospital the other night where I think there were a few — there were actually a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody,
you will be pleased to know. And I continue to shake hands.
I have taken a test. That has come out positive. So I am working from home. I’m self-isolating. And that’s entirely the right thing to do.
Good afternoon. I have today left hospital after a week in which the NHS has saved my life, no question. It’s hard to find words to express my debt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: And he said that it could have gone either way.
Mark Landler, I mean, that is just, A, a remarkable set of pictures and a trans — progression of the way he looked, from mocking it to coming out of
a very serious hospitalization and intensive care. And it’s very similar to the pattern of behavior that President Trump has exhibited as well.
So, let’s go back to reminding everybody what happened here. When he was first taken ill, how did the government run? What — who handed over to?
LANDLER: Well, as those pictures suggest, Boris Johnson’s first goal was to look very much like he was still in charge. And so he took part in
crisis meetings from isolation, from his official apartment, which sits above Number 11 Downing Street, actually not Number 10.
And he took part in these meetings with — by Zoom, and Downing Street put out the occasional update on his condition, always used the same language,
he had mild symptoms and he was in good spirits. Eerily, that’s almost exactly the language that Mark Meadows and other officials have used today
to describe President Trump.
One difference is that Boris Johnson posted video of himself in isolation. We haven’t yet seen pictures of President Trump. And it’s not clear we
will. He canceled his public schedule today.
And then what happened is, Boris Johnson — the symptoms got progressively worse. And he tweeted that he was having trouble shaking the symptoms. And
then, with very little advanced warning, we learned that he had been transferred to St. Thomas’ Hospital.
And, again, the reports from Downing Street were very sketchy and determinately upbeat and continued to say that he was in — quote — “good
And then we learned, to, I think, general alarm, that he’d actually been moved into an ICU and was receiving oxygen. And, for a couple of days, it
was extremely touch and go. And I think there was a lot of concern, even at the highest levels of the government, that the prime minister might not
So there was a huge sigh of relief when he was discharged from the ICU, moved back into a hospital ward, and then that very dramatic video that he
recorded after he was released on Easter Sunday, where he described the efforts of the nurses to supply him with oxygen throughout the most
difficult evening, when he said that phrase, “Things could have gone either way.”
So it was a very dramatic and serious bout with coronavirus. One wishes fervently that President Trump does not experience anything close to that.
There’s no indication right now that he is. But it is a reminder that, among men of this age, COVID is extremely dangerous.
And the interesting question is, what lessons did Boris Johnson learn from it? How did it inform the way he’s responded to the virus as it’s unfolded
in the United Kingdom?
AMANPOUR: Well, you have also written about his governing style since.
And many have suggested, many of the press, anyway, and some of the always unnamed politicos in Westminster, that he’s not back to his normal self,
that maybe he is experiencing what a lot of others are experiencing, which is long-term effects that do last long-term, brain fog and other such
Tell me about that, because that’s also massively important. And the president of the United States is the most important person in the world,
whose every word and every action, especially overseas, obviously, is much, much bigger and more consequential than a British prime minister’s.
LANDLER: Yes, you’re absolutely right.
I mean, one of the keys to Boris Johnson’s political success has been his sort of jaunty, upbeat, energetic image. It’s what propelled him to a
landslide election victory last December.
And people who follow Boris Johnson closely say that he has seemed more tired, more enervated, less bouncy perhaps than he had been prior to
Now, he rejects that out of hand. He was asked about this just a few days ago out in the countryside, and he said he felt — quote — “as fit as a
butcher’s dog,” and said that he had actually lost weight since his health crisis, and so he felt really very good.
But there has continued to be this murmurings. And the reason it’s important is, it coincides with a run of fairly tough news for Boris
Johnson. There’s fears that Britain is on the cusp of its own second wave of coronavirus. There’s a very, very difficult negotiation with the
European Union under way on Brexit, on the terms of the Brexit.
And all of this coincides with the prime minister not seeming to be his usual self. So, this question of the lingering effects is an important one,
because, remember, these politicians don’t have the luxury of recovering over months. They have got to get back on the job quickly.
And, if anything, that pressure on President Trump will be even more intense, because he’s only 30-some days away from an election. So the
pressure on him to show signs of being engaged is going to be extraordinary.
And the physical effects, the depletion that people undergo with coronavirus, can’t be overestimated.
AMANPOUR: It truly is an amazing story. I mean, really fact is just so much more dramatic than fiction right now.
Mark Landler, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
Now, like President Trump, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, also play down the virus, and Russia has the world’s fourth highest number of cases.
But, when it comes to protecting himself, Putin has been rigorous, unlike Trump.
Here is correspondent Matthew Chance now joining me with details of Putin’s own protective bubble.
Matthew, it is extraordinary, what we’re now hearing from your end, from the spokesman at the Kremlin, about the actual hermetically sealed bubble
that Putin himself is in. Tell us what you know.
MATTHEW CHANCE: Yes.
Well, look, I mean, to a certain extent, Christiane, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has always sort of lived in a hermetically sealed bubble,
even when there wasn’t a panic — pandemic under way.
And, of course, during this time of COVID-19, that’s been intensified. It’s been made more extreme. I mean, look, Vladimir Putin doesn’t take personal
meetings one-on-one, except in the most exceptional circumstances, anymore. It hasn’t been on a foreign trip since January. And the Kremlin tells me
that he’s not planning to go on any foreign trips until perhaps next year, or at least until the end of this year.
And so, unlike Trump, he has been very much kind of enforcing these very strict sort of social distancing rules when it comes to himself. He works
from home, like most of us do. But his home, of course, is a big official residence outside of Moscow, which has been installed with kind of
protective tunnels, plastic tunnels that people have to pass through, that sprays them with disinfectant before they’re even allowed to go into the
territory where he sort of spends most of his time.
He doesn’t speak to ministers one-on-one. He uses videoconferencing technology. And so it’s sort of added to this idea that he is in a very
different situation from the vast majority of Russian people, from the rest of the country, in fact.
And, again, these social distancing rules that don’t so much apply to everybody else in the country have been applied extremely strictly to the
Russian president, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Yes, I mean, it is extraordinary, because we have also seen some pictures, like when he’s meeting a load of people, particularly on special
days and anniversaries, where we then learn that they have been quarantined.
Everybody who comes in contact with him, apparently, has to themselves be quarantined for two weeks before even a photo-op.
CHANCE: Yes, that’s right. They get the choice of either being — seeing him in videoconference or spending a couple of weeks in quarantine before
they get a face-to-face meeting, those extraordinary scenes back in June, when Russia staged its Victory Day parade, its commemorations of the end of
the Second World War.
Brings in veterans and the survivors of that conflict. And those people had to spend two weeks, some of them 100 years old, had to spend two weeks in a
sanatorium outside of Moscow in isolation, quarantined, so that they could be absolutely sure that they didn’t have the coronavirus, COVID-19, before
they were allowed into Red Square and be in the same kind of breathing space as Vladimir Putin.
And so, yes, extraordinary measures that are taken in this country, as opposed to in the United States, to protect the country’s president from
AMANPOUR: That’s right.
And just remind us, what is lockdown like? What is being told to the people? What is the rate of infection and death there? I mean, is there
sort of a disconnect between the protective measures around the head of state and what the people are being told and instructed?
CHANCE: Yes, I mean, I think there definitely is.
I mean, look, I mean, Russia has always been one of the worst-affected countries when it came to COVID-19. It’s got well over, I think, 1.1
million people that are confirmed as having the virus at this stage. And, I mean, early on in the pandemic, actually, the lockdown here was very
severe. You had to get a special permit to go outside of your of your house or to go within 100 meters of where you were registered to live.
But, in June and July, those restrictions were eased. I think they were eased for political reasons. Remember, there was that Victory Day parade,
which imbued a sense of patriotism in the country amongst the people.
And then, on July the 1st, there was an extremely important referendum which ended up sort of giving power, potentially, to Vladimir Putin until
2036. And the Kremlin needed the people to get out and to actually vote in that referendum.
And so I think there’s a sense that, for political reasons, they lifted those restrictions on people, the lockdown, sort of earlier than they might
otherwise have done if they were just looking at the progress of COVID-19.
Now we’re seeing in Moscow and elsewhere in the country a second spike in COVID-19. You’re up to 9,000 people a day, approximately, being infected,
newly affected, across the country. And we haven’t seen figures like that since the middle of the year.
AMANPOUR: It is incredible.
Matthew Chance, thank you so much for joining us with really a very surreal sit-rep from Moscow. Thank you so much.
And, now, when it comes to understanding just how coronavirus spreads, many of us have heard about the R-factor, of course, which is the average
reproduction number of people who’ve been infected by another person.
But our next guest says it’s actually all about a different letter. And that is the letter K.
It’s the subject of her latest article in “The Atlantic.” And Zeynep Tufekci is a sociologist and associate professor at the University of North
Carolina. And she’s joining me now.
Zeynep Tufekci, welcome to the program.
Can I ask you about this idea of R vs. K? And I guess the bigger picture is, look, what are nations meant to do? And you can see all these surges
that we’re talking about, beyond the disease that the president has contracted. There — it’s surging all over the place, second waves all over
the place, after major lockdowns.
And if — you get the sense that governments just don’t know what to do, absent a vaccine or any treatment.
ZEYNEP TUFEKCI, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: Yes.
So, the important thing to realize here is that I think a lot of us have the wrong mental model of this pathogen, in that we think, like, every
interaction is equally likely.
But, when we look at the epidemiological data coming in from now almost nine months, what we see is that, most of the time, it’s surprisingly non-
infectious, especially if people are outdoors and ventilation is good.
But, occasionally, if people are indoors, in a poorly ventilated environment, and if they’re not wearing masks, and especially if they are
talking or speaking loudly or singing, we have these clusters, super- spreading events, where the virus infects many people at once.
That’s what seems to be going on at the White House, right? There’s not just one person, but lots of people, we’re being told, are positive.
And when we look at what a lot of research has shown us, it happens in, for example, things like nightclubs, bars, restaurants, weddings, funerals,
where people are close to each other, and especially, and almost always, in fact, indoors. Or if they’re, like, speaking at close range outdoors,
that’s a risk factor too.
And I think it hasn’t been communicated this is airborne transmission. It doesn’t mean that you’re at risk if you’re, like, on the other side of the
building. It’s not like that. But, if you’re in an enclosed space, a crowded space, if people are not wearing masks, if the speaker is not
wearing masks, as we saw on the debate stage, that both of them were speaking, and they were unmasked, in such a scenario, that distance is not
as protective as one would hope, because, again, airborne transmission means that we have these short-range aerosols, which can travel beyond that
six-feet or two-meter length we have heard.
It is not a magic number. Indoors, that distance is not protective, especially if the ventilation is not good. And that’s what — earlier on,
the R0 is an average. It’s misleading.
We see big spread, and we see a lot of little to no spread. It’s not like always the same. So, we have to really pay attention to the setting.
So, just to get it clear, just as briefly as you can, the difference between R and K.
TUFEKCI: So, R is the average number of people that we expect to be infected, but not at a time.
The example I like to give is that, if Jeff Bezos, who has a $200 billion wealth, walked into a bar with 100 other people, all of a sudden the wealth
in that bar appears like it’s $2 billion per person. That’s an average. The average is misleading.
Most of the infections, most of the transmissions are occurring in big clumps and clusters. And they’re happening indoors in poorly ventilated
places, especially if people aren’t wearing masks, whereas the R is, if you added all together and divided into the whole population.
And that’s not really the number that is giving us a correct picture, because, sometimes, we have incidents. In South Korea, one woman led to
5,000 infections, 5,000 infections.
But, on the other hand, research shows us that, 70 to 80 percent of the time, people don’t transmit at all. So, this is a varying thing. It goes
from being wildly contagious, if everything goes wrong at the same time, to being almost not contagious at all.
So, we could go a long way if we targeted those super-spreading events. And that’s probably why Europe is having a second wave, because they opened up
pubs, indoor clubs, restaurants. These are high-risk places — you cannot risk that — while, sometimes, very inexplicably closing down parks, which
are low-risk places.
We have to target the risk where it occurs. And, sadly, even — it’s October 2020, and we still don’t have our measures properly targeting the
super setting — super-spreading risks, especially indoors.
So I just hope that this is a wakeup call to all the governments.
AMANPOUR: Right. You said it’s October. That’s because it’s soon going to be winter, and indoors is going to be the default, right? There’s not going
to be much outdoors socializing.
So, what governments are — do you think are actually — who get it, get it about K vs. R, who are stopping the super-spreading? I think you have
AMANPOUR: What are they doing?
TUFEKCI: So, absolutely.
In fact, if you look at Japan, very early on, they started targeting clusters, they call it cluster busting, by trying to find the people who
were infecting many people at once, which is the big risk factor. Rather than just trying to track every last infection, they were looking for those
And they had this amazingly correct message. They told their population to avoid the three C’s. Those are crowds, close contact, in closed
environment, which is exactly where super spreading occurs. And a lot of people were predicting disaster for Japan, because they seemed to be doing
things in an unconventional way.
But, right now, their schools are open. They’re even opening up stadiums. But, again, because they understand the aerosol risk, the airborne risk,
they’re not allowing chanting, because talking is something that spreads a lot of these aerosols that can infect people, whereas, like the
presidential debate, where we see them just — President Trump was almost yelling at times.
And those are very high-risk settings, though I think Japan is an excellent example, their three C’s, avoid those closed environments, avoid crowds,
avoid talking or singing in close range, have been — they have — it turned out to be correct.
And the Japanese epidemiologists had this back in February. And they had excellent results. I think the rest of us should learn from South Korea,
Hong Kong, Taiwan. These are countries that had the right science and the right prevention.
And they have mostly gone back to regular life. They do have occasional outbreaks, but they deal with it with this evidence-based method. And we
don’t have — I mean, I hate to say this, but in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control still has not given us updated guidelines on
The scientists petitioned the World Health Organization, and we still don’t have updated guidelines from them either that’s directed at the public. So
we need to really get on the ball, because, if we can stop the super- spreading, we will get so much bang for our preventative buck, so to speak, by targeting those things, and not opening up indoor settings, especially
as we go into winter.
TUFEKCI: As you say, that’s the major crisis awaiting us.
AMANPOUR: Yes. Yes, I mean, interestingly, the Japanese obviously learned from — because it was very tough in the beginning with the Diamond
Princess. I mean, talk about a super-spreading event, that yacht with all those people on it. There was a lot of infection. And it was really bad at
But I wonder what you make of Sweden, then? Because Sweden also has done something completely different to just about every other country. And where
do you — where do you put it now in the success/failure rate?
TUFEKCI: So, Sweden is very interesting. People like to argue that it’s like a successful herd immunity strategy, or it’s a failure because it had
high rates of infection and death in its elderly care facilities.
But, if you look at it from a super-spreading point of view, Sweden put a cap on indoor events for 50 back in March, and they never budged. So they
actually, from a super-spreading point of view, are in the middle.
They did a lot of sort of correct things, although they managed to do that. They failed that keeping the clusters happening at their elderly care
facilities. So I don’t really understand that either success or failure arguments from Sweden, because, from a cluster-busting approach, they’re
kind of in the middle, because even when Europe’s other countries went back to opening up the indoor clubs — even at reduced capacity, it’s still a
Sweden was like, nope, we’re going to keep 50 percent — 50-person limit, and they also closed schools for kids 16 and up in-person, which is the
correct way to do it, because it’s — the transmission risk goes up with age. So, high schoolers older than 16, their universities have been online
the whole time, whereas, in the United States, we opened up colleges, which, again, are like perfect super-spreading settings, because you have
all these kids in a dorm or a party or in a fraternity or in a classroom.
Again, that’s a super-spreading event setting just waiting to go off. And, occasionally, it does go off.
But, on the other hand, 70, 80 percent of the time, nobody infects, the transmission just doesn’t happen. So, if we could just take some
precautions in a smart way, there’s a way to wait for the vaccine without having the kind of problems we are having, because once you have super-
spreading clusters igniting other clusters, as we saw earlier in Italy and in New York and other places, it’s very hard to control.
So, we have to — before winter starts, we have to step up, because, by the time you notice the super-spreading, it’s too late. You have to stop those
indoor transmissions before they happen, because then it just gets out of hand, and we have many, many months of death and misery, very difficult to
control, because it’s exponential growth.
AMANPOUR: And economic decline as well, and people out of work, and poverty and mental health.
AMANPOUR: I mean, it’s just such a — it is such a situation.
Zeynep, thank you so much, indeed, for joining us.
And, finally, today marks two tragic years since the brutal murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He was killed and dismembered inside
Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, having gone there to collect the papers he needed to get married.
The CIA concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia had personally ordered the killing, which he denies.
And, today, Freedom First and Amnesty International covertly projected huge images of Jamal Khashoggi on the Saudi Embassy facade and other locations
across Washington, D.C., to protest his assassination, of course, and the arrest of other political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
Jamal stood for truth and transparency. And today’s news about President Trump’s COVID diagnosis just highlights the intense and dangerous lack of
transparency within this administration and in so many other places.
And, as for his own homeland, Khashoggi said in his last column, which was published after his death, what the Arab world needs most is free
That’s it for now. Remember, you can follow me and the show on Twitter. Thanks for watching “Amanpour and Company” on PBS and join us again next time.