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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Markets Plummet Again on Coronavirus Fears; Trump Administration Holding Back Health Officials From Talking About Coronavirus?. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired February 27, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The CDC confirms the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the U.S. with no links to foreign travel or direct contact with patients, as nations are closing borders and shutting down schools to try to contain the global outbreak.

[16:00:06]

Plus, Senator Bernie Sanders riding into South Carolina with a wave of delegates and energy. So, why does President Obama's former enforcer say Sanders is too big a risk for his party? I will ask Rahm Emanuel live.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: Breaking news in our money lead.

The Dow tumbling more than 1,000 points today, as the world economy reacts to the growing coronavirus outbreak, the Dow and S&P now on track for the worst week since the 2008 financial crisis, falling sharply all week, the Dow dropping 10 percent below its most recent peak, putting it into correction territory.

CNN's Alison Kosik joins me now live from the stock exchange.

Alison, talk us through just how significant this is.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, clearly, this is super significant, and jaw-dropping to see the Dow fall over 1,100 points.

And it's especially significant because look what happened last week. Just last week, we saw the major indices hitting all-time highs. And it just took 10 trading sessions for the Dow to go from an all-time high to a correction, which happened today, which is a 10 percent fall from a recent high.

Even when stocks were reaching those lofty heights, there was a lot of concern that traders would kind of be in for a rude awakening because there was a lot of complacency about the coronavirus. Well, now that rude awakening has come, because, Jake, more than a trillion dollars in stock market value has literally been wiped out -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Alison, Goldman Sachs is warning American companies will likely generate no earnings in 2020? KOSIK: That is what Goldman Sachs has reported today, saying that U.S. companies are expected to report no profit gains for the year. Some are saying that's a little inflammatory, but it's basing its very downgraded forecast on the impacts of the coronavirus being more widespread than first expected.

It's also a reflection of the decline in Chinese economic activity, a decline in lower demand in U.S. exports and supply chain disruptions for U.S. companies, which we are hearing from today from Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, and, of course, we have heard from Apple.

Now, there is one bright spot. We did see shares of 3M rise today. Looks like investors are bullish on that -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alison, obviously, people invest generally for decades, not for weeks or months. Will Americans feel this in their wallets at some point and, if so, when?

KOSIK: I mean, that is really hard to say.

It depends, of course, on what happens with the coronavirus. I think what you're going to see sooner and what we are seeing now is companies feeling that hit.

I just mentioned Microsoft and Apple and Anheuser-Busch. They're having huge supply disruptions, meaning they get their products or parts of their products from China. They can't even get those products either made or sent back here to put the products together.

So you're seeing companies really get hit already and sending out warnings before their earnings come out -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange, thank you so much for that.

The market plunges happening amid mounting fears that it is only a matter of time before the virus spreads thoroughly throughout the United States. There are now at least 60 cases confirmed. The latest is a Californian who contracted the virus without having traveled abroad and without having come into contact with a known patient.

It's what health experts call a community spread.

California's Governor Gavin Newsom said moments ago that 8,400 people in the state of California are currently being monitored for the virus.

President Trump, meanwhile, is trying to project confidence and control. He's downplaying the risk of infection. He's insisting it is not necessarily inevitable that the virus will spread throughout the United States.

That rosy scenario seemed to contradict the nation's own health experts, which, in turn, prompted some criticism that the Trump administration was offering mixed messages to the nation. Also facing some criticism today, the man appointed to helm the

government's response, Vice President Mike Pence, whose history on matters ranging from cigarettes to an HIV crisis in Indiana is prompting questions from Democrats about his allegiance to science, Democrats calling today for Pence to be replaced.

We also have this breaking news. Top health officials have been instructed not to give interviews without previously getting the sign- off from the White House, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins now reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Vice President Pence is wasting no time as the new face of the administration's coronavirus response team.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As the president said yesterday, we're ready.

COLLINS: Despite initially denying there would be a shakeup in the leadership, President Trump tapped Pence after growing frustrated with his Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar, who denies he's being pushed aside.

[16:05:02]

ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Not in the least. When the -- when this was mentioned to me, I was delighted.

COLLINS: Sources say Azar came close to being pushed out of the task force altogether after Trump grew irritated while watching news coverage that questioned whether his administration was prepared. Trump decided Wednesday to hold a press conference and put a new face in charge.

AZAR: I'm still chairman of the task force.

COLLINS: Pence's new role may come with political risk. Trump cited his experience as governor of Indiana as proof he's qualified for the job.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Anybody that knows anything about health care, they look at the Indiana model, and it's been a very great success.

COLLINS: But Pence's record from that time is coming under renewed scrutiny. He was blamed in 2015 for delaying a clean needle exchange program, making a severe HIV outbreak in the state worse, after initially arguing it would encourage further drug use.

Because of that, some critics say he's not the right figure to lead the response to a health crisis, which Speaker Pelosi says she raised directly with him today.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have always had a very candid relationship. And I expressed to him the concern that I had of his being in this position.

COLLINS: Pence later responded by insisting the White House will work with both parties.

PENCE: This is not the time for partisanship.

COLLINS: Today, Pence also enlisted Dr. Deborah Birx, the director of the U.S. effort to fight AIDS and HIV, to help coordinate the government's response.

But as the White House adds more medical experts to its team, the president has continued to contradict his own officials.

DR. ANNE SCHUCHAT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We do expect more cases. And this is a good time to prepare.

TRUMP: I don't think it's inevitable.

COLLINS: For his part, Pence seems to be hoping to put an end to the mixed messages. Sources tell CNN his office will now take the lead on public statements and appearances when it comes to coronavirus. And health officials must clear them through his office.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, Pence chaired a meeting at Health and Human Services this afternoon.

And he was asked during that by reporters to clarify who is leading the task force. He said he's leading it, but that Alex Azar, the HHS secretary, is still the chairman of the task force.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

Joining me now is Ron Klain. He served as the Ebola czar under President Obama.

Ron, first of all, how significant is the fact that we have this first case that's community-spread? In other words, the person did not get it while traveling abroad and is not a physician or a nurse or whatever, who got it from a patient, got it from some unknown origin in the United States?

RON KLAIN, FORMER EBOLA CZAR: Well, I mean, the facts are still unclear.

But if it is as it seems, it's very significant. Jake. And it points to the fact that we may not have found many cases of coronavirus in the U.S. because we haven't looked. This person was in the hospital infectious for a week, doctors saying, should we test them?

And CDC said, no, you don't need to test them. So, in Korea, for example, they have tested 35,000 people for the virus. Here, we have tested fewer than 500 people for the virus. So you're not going to find it if you don't look for it.

TAPPER: As you heard in the piece, the White House now trying to control the public message, saying that people like Dr. Anthony Fauci or Dr. Schuchat or others can't give interviews without getting sign- off from the White House first.

Correct me if I'm wrong. I don't remember that being how you did it when you were the Ebola czar. I remember that we could just go right to NIH or CDC and ask for interviews and they would just say yes and do interviews.

KLAIN: Well, even more than that -- absolutely, Jake.

And even more than that, I didn't do interviews. We had Dr. Fauci and Dr. Schuchat and other experts, Dr. Frieden, back in the CDC, do the interviews, because they are the experts. They are the ones who should be communicating to the public. Trump has it exactly backwards.

Instead of silencing the experts and having more spin from the White House, we ought to silence the spin from the White House and hear from the experts.

Tony Fauci is a national treasure. This person got the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush in 2008. And he has saved more lives even since then. The idea that the American people wouldn't hear from him is an outrage and a public health risk.

TAPPER: So there are now 60 confirmed cases in the U.S. Health officials warn this could spread even further. In fact, they just expect that will. That's the assumption.

KLAIN: Yes.

TAPPER: In fact, we have heard people say, this is eventually just going to take root in the U.S. and just be like the other flu, the common influenza of what's out there.

You said, anyone who says we know how many cases of the virus we have in America is not being straight with the American people. What do you mean by that?

KLAIN: Well, that's what I said to -- referred to before, Jake. We haven't really tested extensively. We don't know how widespread it is. And if you don't test, you're not going to find it.

I think what's clear is, however many cases that are here now, there are going to be more. The Trump strategy so far has rested on what they call containment, try to slow the flow of people into the country with the virus. That strategy only makes sense if you use the time it buys to step up preparation.

So what concerns me most is, we're on a ticking clock here. And are we seeing really the preparations being made at hospitals to disseminate testing kits, to get ready for an influx of patients?

The clock is ticking. We need to step up the effort. [16:10:00]

TAPPER: Should there be more travel restrictions put in place by the Trump administration, do you think?

KLAIN: I don't really think those are going to help. I think they slow down the pace.

But,look, China is the largest country in the world. We have thousands of Americans there. They're going back and forth every day.

We rely on goods from China. They're brought here on boats with Chinese crews, planes with Chinese crews. If we try to cut all that off, our hospitals would shut down in a matter of days. Most of the drugs in our hospital, many of the drugs in our hospitals come from China. Supplies come from China.

So it's inevitable that people are going to go back and forth. We need to focus on getting ready for the inevitable, not just hoping it won't happen here.

TAPPER: When you were appointed to the Ebola czar position by President Obama, then citizen Donald Trump tweeted -- quote -- "Obama just appointed an Ebola czar with zero experience in the medical area and zero experience in infectious disease control." All caps. "A TOTAL JOKE."

Vice President Pence doesn't have the same -- doesn't have medical experience or infectious disease experienced. He was hammered last night by Senator Elizabeth Warren at a CNN town hall. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This vice president has dealt with a public health emergency before in Indiana. And what was his approach? It was to put politics over science and let a serious virus expand in his state and cost people lives.

He is not the person who should be in charge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It's obviously a thankless job, whether it's you or Vice President Pence. But what do you make of her argument? And what did you make of the criticism from then citizen Trump about your appointment?

KLAIN: Well, I will come back to Trump in a second.

What I'd say is the problem isn't that Mike Pence doesn't have public health experience. It's that he does, and it's bad. His reaction to the HIV epidemic in Scott County, Indiana, one of the highest per capita outbreaks of HIV in our country, was just all wrong.

And his comments that smoking doesn't cause cancer is also all wrong. So, look, the fundamental issue here is, you need someone to run these

responses who know how to make the government work, but they have to be willing to listen to the scientists, the doctors, the experts.

When President Obama picked me, he said, I'm picking you because you aren't a doctor. You won't get in the way of the medical advice. We have the best doctors in the world working in the government, if we listen to them.

And so the question for Vice President Pence is, given his history of rejecting science and rejecting medical expertise, will he do this differently now?

TAPPER: And do you want to respond to then citizen Trump or...

KLAIN: Well, what then citizen Trump said about the Ebola response and President Trump -- Obama's handling of it was wrong in almost every respect.

He said, we shouldn't have brought back patients who were sick. He said we shouldn't have taken the steps we did. That response, Tom Frieden called it one of President Obama's greatest foreign policy successes. We helped save thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of lives in Africa, and prevented the spread here in United States.

I think President Obama should be very proud of that response. I'm proud of my work on it.

TAPPER: Ron Klain, thanks so much for being here. We really appreciate your time.

KLAIN: Thanks Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up, the latest coronavirus case in the U.S. is not like any of the others so far -- why doctors say it is so concerning.

Plus, a new report says Senator Bernie Sanders could be in for a messy showdown this summer if he does not clinch the race before the convention.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:17:23]

TAPPER: And we're back with our health lead.

California Governor Gavin Newsom today announcing that his state is monitoring at least 8,400 people in coronavirus, and confirming the first case of what's called community spread coronavirus, meaning the person is thought to have caught it from someone else here in the United States, not from a patient. As one expert put it, that pretty means every American is at risk.

And as CNN's Nick Watt reports now, communities throughout the nation are now preparing for what's next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This new California case could be a turning point. We're told this woman has not traveled overseas recently or been in contact with anyone who is known to have the virus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That suggests that the virus is out there in the community, and that means pretty much that everybody's at risk.

WATT: It's possible this could be an instance of community spread, the CDC says, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Absolutely, people that have been in contact with this individual have to right to know, and in real time they are being interviewed. Points of contact, family members are being interviewed.

WATT: Eighty-four hundred people in the state who have returned from overseas are right now being monitored.

Facebook just canceled its large F8 Conference to take place in San Jose in early May out of concern over the virus. Orange County just joined San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Diego, declaring a state of emergency, freeing up funds just in case.

Even states with no confirmed cases getting ready.

GOV. MARIO CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We are active ourselves in what we're doing.

WATT: New York's governor approves $40 million for staff and equipment if needed. Florida has assembled an emergency management team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an emerging and rapidly evolving situation.

WATT: Hawaiian Airlines has canceled all flights to and from South Korea. This virus could pose some major challenges. It appears to be easily transmissible of 3,711 people on board the Diamond Princess, at least 705 caught it.

It's novel, it's new, so very few of us have immunity from past exposure. It can be mild, even asymptomatic, so infected people can be walking around unknowingly spreading it. The FAA has now simplified the test and more labs should now be able to test for this virus.

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: The next step is working with the private sector and also CDC to develop a -- basically a bedside diagnostic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And testing, Jake, is going to be absolutely crucial in the fight against this virus.

[16:20:02]

And this morning, the governor of California said the number of test kits have been available in the state simply inadequate. More are now on their way and fast.

Also under review will be who gets that test sparked. We're told by the recent case in California, that woman admitted to the hospital last Wednesday didn't get tested until Sunday. So those requirements now under review -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Watt, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Let's talk about all this.

Let me start with you, Jane, because President Trump, he's openly contradicting the CDC when he says he does not think an outbreak in the U.S. is inevitable. The medical professionals say pretty much they think it is inevitable. We just learned, of course, from now on, the senior health officials in the administration need to have the White House sign off on their appearances and interviews.

What are we all -- what are we make of all of this?

JANE COASTON, SENIOR POLITICS REPORTER, VOX: Well, what the government should be doing is focuses on mitigation. And I think, you know, coronavirus is here, and it is particularly risky because it's a virus that can display very few symptoms, which means people who have it can be ambulatory, walking around, interacting with people.

And that's something -- you know, public health responses are often left to state and local entities. And so, for Trump to be so focused on saying that it's not going to happen here instead of thinking, what if it does and when it does, I think is doing us all a real disservice, especially because his main focus has been on the stock market, and the issue has been that the more he attempts to lift confidence in the stock market, that causes the stock market to panic more about what we don't do and don't know.

TAPPER: Yes, and he compared it to the flu yesterday, but when he did so, he kind of revealed how little he knows about the flu even as he enters the fourth year of his presidency. I mean, I think we know tens of thousands of Americans die every flu season. They're often older, sick people, already sick, but here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The flu in our country kills from 25,000 to 69,000 people a year. That was shocking to me. Think of that -- 25,000 to 69,000, over the last ten years, we've lost 360,000. These are people that have died from the flu, from what we call the flu. Hey, did you get your flu shot? And that's something.

(END VIDEO CLIP) AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I guess I'm of two minds about this. The good news is, is that a highly germophobic president who wants to shut down the border, he has a perfect excuse to enact really draconian policies right now. He's not going there, and I think it's because of the reason Jane pointed out, he's scared of scaring the markets.

So, then you have to ask, is this a president that would suppress bad information from becoming public because he's afraid of the way it would blow back on him? The answer is yes, and we can tell from the response of the markets.

TAPPER: And the one thing that he has going for them is he does not have a Donald Trump person -- like person the way Barack Obama did during the Ebola crisis. Here's one video he posted leading up to the 2014 midterms.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have a tremendous problem in New York because President Obama would not stop the flights so now we've got Ebola. He should be ashamed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The good news is for President Trump, he does not have a Donald Trump doing that sort of thing.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, he doesn't. And there was a political price that Democrats paid for that. And I remember in that midterm going down to Georgia, a volunteer for my friend Michelle Nunn --

TAPPER: Yes, Democrats lost nine Senate seats and 13 House seats.

BEGALA: Yes, and that came right in the end, and people like Trump were stoking this nonsense. And it was a lot of hate.

That's a good thing for our country, too, not just Trump. I do wonder if this has been a bit of a conspiracy theory.

Why put Mike Pence in charge? He doesn't have a background. That's okay. He's an able guy.

I think he's setting him up to fail so he can bounce him off the ticket, and put somebody else on there.

TAPPER: That's a conspiracy --

BEGALA: It is. I'm just rolling that out there, Jake.

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: On that point, this is a guy who purged national security officials who presented him with news he didn't want to hear.

TAPPER: President Trump, right.

CARPENTER: He's not going put someone there who will give him bad news, right? That's why he got Pence.

BEGALA: He did scale back on experts in the government, too, on pandemics.

TAPPER: What do you make of the criticism of Vice President Pence? A lot of people pointing out in the past, he said there was no link between cigarettes and deaths, the way he handled the HIV crisis in Indiana when he was governor. There's a lot that Democrats are criticizing.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and the fact that he's a political figure that is running for re-election and has every incentive to side with the president, to defend the president. We even saw him yesterday talking about how much the president has done, how the president's response has been so positive and so great, even though -- even the other health officials on the stage were saying, we need to prepare. You didn't hear that from Vice President Pence.

So, there is a sense that maybe Pence is going to be more focused on defending President Trump and not giving the American people the information they need to know.

[16:25:06]

He was at CPAC earlier today talking about how great the president has done over the last three years and how he need another four years with the president, not spending as much time focusing on this virus and protecting the American people.

TAPPER: Jane, do you view it the same way as Amanda does in terms of valuing super loyalty as opposed to expertise in the intelligence community, to view Pence helming this effort?

COASTON: I think that's a risk, but I also want the note, historically, presidents have been bad at dealing with pandemics. This happened during the Spanish flu after World War I. This happened with the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1980s.

And so, I think that what concerns me most is that a pandemic is almost the perfect storm of bad information for a president who wants to get re-elected.

TAPPER: OK. Well, thank you for scaring me even further, Jane. I appreciate it.

Stick around, everyone. We have a lot more to talk about.

Senator Bernie Sanders says, don't tell me I can't beat Trump.

The man who built Obama's White House is not so sure Sanders is right. Here's to tell me why, next.

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