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Interview with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA); Young Republicans Want GOP Climate Change Action; Interview with Lieutenant Governor of Michigan Garlin Gilchrist. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 6, 2020 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): -- the paradigm of that could have been the case.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: So now, if there is that realization -- and we have heard that from the experts -- do we have enough resources to do it though? Because Vice President Pence, I mean, he granted yesterday, we don't have the kits at this point to test all the people we need to test.

CASSIDY: So they're suggesting that it's going to be 1.25 million -- the capacity to do 1.25 million cases by the end of this week, today.


CASSIDY: Now, you can't nationwide probably get 1.25 million people in to be tested. So I think that we will gradually expand both our capacity, but also our capacity to test. And ideally, public health is finding that person of interest, checking everyone around them proactively until you get the people who are truly negative. Then you stop.

SCIUTTO: You have heard -- and you're an expert at this -- you've heard, like Americans have heard, conflicting messages coming out from the administration. Because you have the president saying -- and trust me, I understand the reason to tamp down panic, no one wants anybody to panic. On the other hand, you want the most accurate information out there.

The president, for instance, said this morning, "We closed it down, we stopped the spread." Then we talked to Sanjay Gupta and he said, listen, no because we haven't tested enough. Is it -- how important is it for the administration to be speaking with one honest voice on this?

CASSIDY: You have to view this as somewhat of a fugue, if you will, two different messages spiraling around. If you're in a place -- again, go to Monroe, Louisiana -- where there is no one who's yet been diagnosed, and you've not yet had connection with those who are infected: one message for them.


CASSIDY: You don't need to wear a mask. If you're in a suburb of Seattle where there's a 19-year-old who's been diagnosed with community spread, it is a different message.

So if you will, the broader message is still, don't panic, wash your hands, get your flu shot, sneeze into your sleeve --


CASSIDY: -- but if you're in another area, you have to be, wait a second, if you're going to a nursing home, you may have different precautions than otherwise.

So the breadth of our country means that we have to have more than one message. The American people have to kind of digest that.

SCIUTTO: OK, fair enough.

If you were recommending to people at home -- OK, say, OK, I need to listen to what's right for me, what's the best place for them to go? Who should they be listening to?

CASSIDY: So your local public health folks will be the ones who have the message that is specific for you. But let's just go to the recommendations that are general. Get your flu shot --


CASSIDY: -- again, one more time, if you sneeze, sneeze into -- I carry hand sanitizer with me --


CASSIDY: -- and wash my hands constantly. I like to say that instead of shaking hands, you can bump elbows --

SCIUTTO: OK, we'll so that so folks at home know what we mean.

CASSIDY: How to do that.


CASSIDY: Or bump fists.

But just do those things which are common-sense that would -- and if you're sick, stay at home.


CASSIDY: Don't muscle it out and go out.

SCIUTTO: So that's the thing, when I speak about message. Because you heard the president yesterday, say -- seem to imply that folks can still go to work, whereas you had the CDC saying, not a good idea.

CASSIDY: It depends on where you -- if you're sick, don't go to work.

SCIUTTO: Fine, that's a clear message you're saying. CASSIDY: Yes, and that's a message, don't go to work. If you have the

flu, the regular influenza, don't go to work. But otherwise yes, go to work. You've still got to feed your people.

SCIUTTO: Of course, that's what I meant, I meant to imply when you're infected.


SCIUTTO: Final question, if I can. As these numbers ramp up, as you test more, are you confident that communities around the country have the resources to then treat them, to quarantine them, to make sure they follow the steps necessary to make sure it doesn't spread further?

CASSIDY: It depends on how you define resources. If you define resources as there's going to be enough public health access, there's going to be enough hospital beds, then I'm fairly confident.

What we also need to do though is have a better way of tracking that person of interest.


CASSIDY: So what Taiwan and mainland China have both done, is figured out who was infected and then they were able to look at everyone they had come in contact with --

SCIUTTO: Using location services you're saying, like their (ph) electronic device?

CASSIDY: Using a location service. That's what law enforcement does now. You can anonymize that data with kind of public health safeguards and if you will, civil rights, civil liberties safeguards. But if you're infected, Jim, I need to know everyone you've had contact with for the last week.


CASSIDY: And then you go and test them. And you get a negative, you stop. If you get a positive, you keep on going. We need to have a 2020 way of tracking contacts, not a 1950s way of tracking contacts.

SCIUTTO: Smart point. Always good to have the doctors on.

CASSIDY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: You're always welcome on the program --


CASSIDY: Appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: -- taking the time, and we'll do this. That's the smart move.

Still ahead this hour,


BENJI BACKER, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE COALITION: It's really awesome to see such an amazing crowd of conservatives who care about the environment here --



SCIUTTO: Young Republicans are pushing fellow conservatives to take action on the climate crisis. Up next, why they believe that party must focus on the environment.


SCIUTTO: Many young Republicans say that fighting climate change is a generational issue, not a political one. In fact, some of these college students believe the GOP is wrong to dismiss the subject. Our chief climate correspondent Bill Weir wants to know why.


BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Conservative Political Action Conference, you'd expect Fox News and the NRA, deplorable hammocks, Donald Trump nutcrackers and statues made of nails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's America's superhero, and he's tough as nails.

WEIR (voice-over): But this year's CPAC had something new.

WEIR: So do you consider yourself sort of a Republican Greta?



O'BRIEN: I'm done with us talking about the problem. We've talked about the problem, we recognize the problem and now we need to talk about solutions.

WEIR (voice-over): She is the leader of this booth full of Republicans all devoted to fighting climate change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is our website --


WEIR (voice-over): With taxes on big oil --

WEIR: I've been to a few CPACs in my day, and spotting a climate-woke Republican who wants to have a carbon tax, is like spotting a snow leopard in the wild. I mean, what drives this change? O'BRIEN: I think it's a lot of young people, honestly. This is really

a generational issue. We believe that people my age and a little bit older are really waking up to the problem that is climate change on both sides of the aisle.

WEIR (voice-over): And in a packed happy hour around the corner --

BACKER: It's really awesome to see such an amazing crowd of conservatives who are about the environment here --

WEIR (voice-over): A rival group of conservative climate hawks gather as, for the first time, polls show more than half of young Republicans believe the government isn't doing enough to fight manmade global warming.

But as more of them agree with Greta that our house is on fire, new debates are breaking out over the best way to put it out.

BACKER: I think she's incredible, for someone her age to be speaking up and shifting the course of global history.

WEIR (voice-over): Benji Backer grew up knocking on doors for John McCain and Mitt Romney as a kid. And in college, created the American Conservation Coalition.

WEIR: Do you support President Trump?

BACKER: I don't support President Trump's approach to the environment so far --

WEIR (voice-over): A group built for green and frustrated young Republicans.

BACKER: -- and the fact that you have to have some government protections on human health and the environment, and protecting animals and wildlife, that has to be there.

WEIR (voice-over): He says his group now has chapters on over 200 campuses, all who share the belief that free market forces and innovation can stop global warming.

BACKER: Everyone in my generation wants to buy Tesla. Everyone in my generation wants to have solar panels on their roofs. They're -- that demand is there, and that's a culture change that no government policy could ever enact.

WEIR (voice-over): He opposes most regulation and a carbon tax.

But Kiera O'Brien disagrees. She's an Alaskan, helping pay for Harvard with the money her state takes from big oil and gives to each resident. So she's all in for the Baker-Shultz plan, named for the members of Ronald Reagan's cabinet who helped write it.

O'BRIEN: This is the solution that is backed by the largest statement of economists in the history of the profession of economics. WEIR (voice-over): It would tax carbon and divvy it up among

Americans. The average family would get about $2,000 a year to start, but both tax and dividend would ramp up until fossil fuel goes the way of the dinosaurs.

O'BRIEN: I would love for President Trump to sign a plan just like this.

WEIR: Do you think he will?

O'BRIEN: I think he could.

WEIR: Really?


WEIR: But if he wins again, what does that do for the climate do you think, based on his attitudes historically?

O'BRIEN: I mean, attitudes can change in the future. We're betting on it with the Republican Party as a whole. I see no reason why President Trump couldn't change his mind as well.

WEIR (voice-over): Bill Weir, CNN, Washington.


SCIUTTO: Our thanks to Bill Weir for that report.

Before we go to break, in this week's risk-takers, today's customers want fresh food. And when you think fresh, most people do not thing McDonald's. But McDonald's recently took a risk on a menu staple. Take a look.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The McDonald's quarter pounder burger, a sandwich that's practically an American icon. It's been prepared basically the same way since it was introduced back in the 1970s. That is, until 2018 when the company decided to make a big change to the recipe: a quarter pounder made with fresh beef, not frozen.

MARION GROSS, CHIEF SUPPLY CHAIN OFFICER, MCDONALD'S: This was probably the most difficult change that we made since we made the move to all-day breakfast.

CRANE (voice-over): The rollout to 14,000 locations in the U.S. was no small feat. The goal was to cook up a juicy burger without slowing down McDonald's kitchen, and ensuring the food remained safe.

CRANE: What was particularly for you something that was really challenging or a nut that had to be cracked that, you know, kept you up at night?

GROSS: For me, it was really the food safety piece. That was the number one thing for me.

CRANE: Food safety issues can tank a company's reputation. That's what happened to Chipotle after dozens of customers got sick from an E. coli outbreak.

GROSS: There can be risks with frozen patties as well as with fresh patties. It just means you have to have more robust procedures when you're handling fresh beef product.

CRANE (voice-over): Those changes included a $60 million investment to upgrade equipment like refrigerators and food packaging technology. The investments have paid off. Sales of the quarter pounders are up 30 percent.


GROSS: You can never get rid of all risk, that's impossible. But knowing that you've done everything you can to protect food safety, it lets you sleep better at night for sure.



SCIUTTO: There are now more than 100,000 coronavirus cases around the world according to Johns Hopkins University. Authorities struggling to stop the spread of infections as the World Health Organization warns that this is, quote, "not a drill." CNN's Ben Wedeman, he joins us now from Milan.

This is a part of northern Italy that's seen a lot of cases. Those cases, now skyrocketing. Ben, what kind of scrutiny is the Italian health service facing? Because that's a real question, not just the spread of this but how governments respond to and try to stop the spread.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, there has been criticism of the Italian public health system. People say that the medical personnel don't have enough equipment like masks and gloves. And also we know that, for instance, 12 percent of the total number of cases recorded in Italy -- and as of yesterday, that was 3,858 -- 12 percent of those cases are medical personnel.

So it is having an impact on the way the national health service is able to deal with the situation. There's a shortage of beds in the ICUs. In fact, we did hear the prime minister of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, yesterday, saying that the medical service is in danger of being overwhelmed under these circumstances.

Having said all that, generally, people are very positive about the health service here. It is a national institution. The attitude of most Italians is that quality health care is a right and not a privilege, and this is a health system that is generally considered to be one of the best in the world.

But given these numbers, they are definitely challenged. We've spoken with doctors who said that they have gone for days without sleeping, working around the clock, getting very little rest in dealing with this crisis. But until these numbers start to go down or at least level off, there's going to be concern and criticism that perhaps the system here might not be working -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's a question for this country as well. Folks who don't have health care, will they get the necessary testing and treatment? Ben Wedeman, good to have you on the story there in Italy, one of the focuses so far of the outbreak.


It is a battle for the big prize of the state of Michigan in next Tuesday's Democratic primaries. Coming up, we have Michigan's lieutenant governor on that key swing state. Who of those two gentlemen has the advantage?


SCIUTTO: This just in to CNN, the president's trip to the CDC in Atlanta today, which was off -- the president revealed, because there were concerns a worker there had contracted the disease -- that trip, his visit, is now back on. That worker tested negative. We will bring you that visit and his comments there as they happen.

In other news, six states are now in focus as the 2020 Democrats campaign ahead of Super Tuesday part two -- which comes next Tuesday -- with 125 delegates up for grabs. Michigan's is the biggest prize on that day, and Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, they are ready to fight it out.


Joining me now, Michigan's lieutenant governor, Garlin Gilchrist. Lieutenant Governor, nice to have you on this morning. You of course, the governor endorsed Joe Biden this week. What made you decide to back Biden this time around?

GARLIN GILCHRIST (D), LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: Well, I'm proud to endorse Joe Biden because the vice president has been a friend to the entire state of Michigan, and especially to the city of Detroit. He has shown up over the years for the auto industry, he's shown up to protect health care, he's shown up to deliver on transportation and internet access.

He has been a friend to this community. And people will win Michigan when they show up. And he's proven that, time and time again over the years. That's why I'm proud and I trust that he is going to do that for us as our nominee, and as the next president.

SCIUTTO: Who has the nominee? Because Sanders, he won Michigan in 2016. That was a big surprise, a big upset at the time over Hillary Clinton. Who has the advantage this year?

GILCHRIST: You know, I think the momentum is building. You saw that Super Tuesday was a really important day for the vice president as he delivered off the strength of the black vote, and so -- a large part of the country, coming off of the South Carolina primary. And that black vote is going to turn out in big numbers here in Michigan on Tuesday.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and I, you know, we were able to perform well because we competed in every part of the state. I think the vice president's going to do the same, and that's going to deliver a victory for him on Tuesday.

SCIUTTO: As you well know, in 2016, Trump won Michigan. That was considered a firewall for Democrats, it did not hold up in 2016. What is the necessary message to Michigan voters who might have voted for Trump in 2016, but also other voters who just didn't turn up to vote in 2016? What is the message the Democratic candidate, the nominee has to get to them to win that state back for Democrats?

GILCHRIST: Well, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and I laid the blueprint. Because while Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,000 votes in 2016, we won Michigan by 10 points in 2018.

That's because we got to every part of the state and we listened to people, and we heard what they wanted us to focus on: roads and infrastructure, expanding and protecting access to health care, ensuring that we are investing in our education system. And that in Michigan, the Great Lake State, that we're protecting our environment and cleaning up our water.

By focusing on the things that matter to people, how do we expand access to health care, how do we create and protect jobs by things like saving the auto industry. If we do those things, if -- Joe Biden is going to be the person who does those things for the people of Michigan, that's why I believe they're going to trust him on Tuesday and we can trust him as our nominee.

SCIUTTO: Elizabeth Warren has now suspended her campaign; she has not yet endorsed. Is her endorsement in your view powerful, going into the Michigan race? And what does Biden need to do, in your view, to win her support?

GILCHRIST: Well, Senator Elizabeth Warren was here on the night of Super Tuesday. And she is an incredible leader, and an incredible spokesperson for just how we can have ideas lead us forward into the future.

And I think she absolutely has a powerful role to play, to help shaping the future of the party and the future of our politics here in Michigan and across the country, so you know, certainly we would welcome her support as we're moving forward.

Because we need everyone to defeat Donald Trump. Donald Trump's agenda has been dangerous and backwards-looking, but it's time for us to move forward and I believe that Joe Biden is the right person to lead us forward.

SCIUTTO: The country is now grappling with the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, and really just at the beginning of a sense of how many people in this country will be affected by it as they begin to test on a large scale. What are Michigan voters telling you about the federal government's response so far?

GILCHRIST: Michigan voters are concerned, like people all over the country are, about how, you know, reckless the president has been with really not even funding and ensuring that the government has what it needs to provide basic public health and public safety protections.

That is why in Michigan, we've taken action at the state level to ensure that we have what we need and what the people of Michigan need. We don't have any confirmed cases as of this point, but people want to know that their federal government is going to be there for them. And the way that you demonstrate that is by showing up, time and time again, and delivering for people.

Joe Biden's done that, and that's why I think he is a leader that I'm confident in, and that people in Michigan can be confident in, will be able to step up to any challenge and deliver for people and deliver for public health. I mean, this is something that's super important. And we believe that our nominee will be Joe Biden, he'll do the right thing.

SCIUTTO: Big test coming up on Tuesday in the state of Michigan, and even a bigger one in November. Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, thanks so much for joining the program.

GILCHRIST: Thanks for having me.

SCIUTTO: Well, you heard it just moments ago. The president's trip to the CDC in Atlanta -- of course, the focus here, the one organization in charge of the response to the coronavirus -- it is back on. We will bring you his comments there, his visit as it happens.


Thanks so much for joining me today. I'm Jim Sciutto. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.