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Brazilian Official Tests Positive after Meeting with Trump Last Weekend; New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson (D) Discusses Coronavirus & New Rochelle Containment Zone and National Guard Use; Trump Talks Coronavirus Response in Press Briefing with Irish P.M. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired March 12, 2020 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00]

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump is discussing coronavirus issues in the Oval Office right now. We're waiting to get that tape to see what he addresses.

But we do know, following on Shasta's report, that the press secretary to President Bolsonaro posted a picture of a picture of himself with President Trump. So that suggests that the potential spread of this disease is not limited to anyone's position or the amount of security around them or whatever.

We've got the president having been in the company of someone this weekend at Mar-a-Lago who has tested positive. You've got his incoming chief of staff who has been in self-quarantine. A couple of Republican members of the House that the president has been in contact with on self-quarantine.

So far as we know, the president of the United States still has not been tested for coronavirus. But the news this morning about the press secretary to the Brazilian president is surely going to cause that issue to be raised once again.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely.

John, thank you.

Shasta, thank you for your reporting.

We'll be right back, guys, with many more developments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:35:57]

BOLDUAN: The nation's first coronavirus containment zone is now in effect, starting today. It covers a one-mile radius in the New York City suburb, New Rochelle, the epicenter of the outbreak in New York.

With that, the National Guard troops are heading in. It's something you most often hear in the aftermath of natural disasters. The Guard's mission this time, though, is to help deliver food and clean public spaces.

Joining me right now is the mayor of New Rochelle, Noam Bramson.

Mayor, thank you for coming in.

MAYOR NOAM BRAMSON, NEW ROCHELLE, NEW YORK: Glad to be with you.

BOLDUAN: What is the situation there today as the closure, the containment zone officially sets in for two weeks?

BRAMSON: Well, I think it's very important to understand what the containment zone is and what it's not. Within that area, there's a prohibition on large gatherings within large institutions, which is a sensible public health measure to mitigate the spread of the virus in the area where it's been most prevalent.

But it's not an exclusion zone, It's not a quarantine zone. People are not prevented from entering or leaving the area. It doesn't affect individuals except those subject to their own specific quarantines. It doesn't affect businesses.

I happen to live in the containment zone myself. I'll be having lunch with my family in the containment zone later today. So I think the label alone can create a somewhat misleading impression.

But at the same time, I do want to acknowledge it has a significant impact on New Rochelle. There are a number of schools, both public and private, within the area that are closed. It certainly curtails the activities of the houses of worship.

So we have many families that have to struggle with childcare issues and that's layered on top of concerns they may have with their own health and the health of their neighbors.

So this is a challenge for us. But it's one that can be misunderstood. And I'm proud of the fashion in which New Rochelle is rising to the occasion.

BOLDUAN: And that context is important in this.

When do you think you'll have a good handle on whether the containment -- whether this strategy has worked?

BRAMSON: We want to be most concerned about the vulnerable population in New Rochelle and elsewhere, and that's principally senior citizens, those with compromised immune systems, with preexisting respiratory illnesses. We have disallowed visitors at various nursing homes and assisted living facilities in New Rochelle.

We're also using the National Guard, and we're grateful for their service here, to provide cleaning services to a variety of public and private facilities where people congregate, to assist in the delivery of supplies, to help with the delivery of meals, as you pointed out earlier. I do want to emphasize that the guard is not here in a military or

police capacity.

BOLDUAN: Right.

BRAMSON: They're not setting up roadblocks. It's really is just logistical and operational support.

BOLDUAN: That's one of the great missions that the Guard can provide.

I saw that Northwell Health is setting up a satellite testing facility in New Rochelle.

BRAMSON: That's right.

BOLDUAN: What does that mean for testing efforts in your town?

BRAMSON: It will help increase the volume and speed of testing, which is, of course, enormously important. You can't manage what you can't measure. And so being able to test in a rapid and efficient fashion is very important in coordinating public health strategies across the board.

New Rochelle, like every community in America, is suffering from what we all acknowledge is a failure at the federal level to adequately prepare for this pandemic and provide the testing infrastructure that's necessary.

But I'm grateful to the state for their focus on the challenge that we have in New Rochelle and for ramping up the resources available for testing here.

BOLDUAN: Mayor, what are the chances that the containment period is going to need to be extended?

BRAMSON: We have no indication as of now that there are any plans to either extend the duration or the geographic spread of the containment area.

But we should acknowledge that this is a situation that is evolving. It's changing not just by the day but by the hour. And it's always possible that additional measures will be required in the future.

But as of now, the plans are exactly what has been stated. And I'm confident and grateful for the transparency and open fashion in which county, state and local officials have collaborated and shared information with the public.

[11:40:00]

BOLDUAN: Mayor, thank you for coming on, and getting out there and putting out the message of what is going on in New Rochelle and what isn't. It's very important. I appreciate your time.

BRAMSON: Thank you. Glad to be with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUESTION: -- way all through the entire economy.

TRUMP: Yeah, it has an obvious effect. The only thing worse can be that you lose thousands and thousands of people, more than you would have lost if you did it the way we're doing it. So it certainly has an impact.

And again, we're very much working with the states because, you know, the states are a smaller form of government, they can control individual arenas and individual things better.

And it's different for different areas. Some areas have no problem whatsoever, in our country, and others do. So we're working with the governors of the various states. And it's -- I think it's working very well. I think the relationship has been very good with California and some others that in particular have been hit.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: It looks like you'll be facing Joe Biden, presidential nominee (inaudible). I mean--

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Yeah, I'm happy. I -- whoever it is, I hope they make their choice soon. I thought it was going to be -- everybody thought it was going to be Bernie, and I've said, Elizabeth Warren, if she waited for -- you know, she waited that extra three days, four days, and Super Tuesday was a disaster. He would have won every one of those states, or almost -- I think almost every one of those states -- Maine, Massachusetts, Texas.

You take a look at the states that were very close, and many of her -- I would say most of her, I would almost say all of hers, but many of her votes would have gone to him. So had she left prior to Super Tuesday -- it was just a few days -- he would have right now been declared virtually the winner, it would have been over. But now, we have Joe. And I'm very happy to run against Joe.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: One of the reasons I ran for president is because of Joe, and the job they did. So it's one of the reasons. So in a way, it's -- in a way, it's -- you know, it's maybe the way it should be. But it looks to me like it would be Biden, would win.

QUESTION: Are you worried that the Irish-American vote might go for Joe?

QUESTION: Are you considering any travel restrictions within the United States such as the Washington state or California?

TRUMP: We haven't discussed that yes. Is it a possibility? Yes, if somebody gets a little bit out of control, if an area gets too hot. You see what they're doing in New Rochelle, which is -- which is good, frankly, it's the right thing. But it's not enforced, it's not very strong but people know they're -- they're being watched, New Rochelle, that's a hotspot.

QUESTION: Just a separate topic, you spoke to the Saudi crown prince the other day--

TRUMP: I did.

QUESTION: -- what did you tell him about the oil market?

TRUMP: Well, I asked him what's going on, and they're having a dispute with Russia. This is something that drove oil prices down. And one thing I can tell you is, oil prices are at a point now that I would have dreamed about because the gasoline prices are going to be coming way down, they'll be coming way down.

So with gasoline prices coming down, that's like a tax cut. Frankly, that's like a big tax cut, not a little tax cut, for the consumer. So there's something about that that I like.

[11:46:04]

TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: All right, we're having some technical issues with some of the tape from the Oval Office with the president.

Let's get over to John Harwood.

I hope you're sticking around with me, John.

So we heard -- there you are, John. Thank you so much.

So I missed - obviously, it seems like we missed a little bit of the tape, which we will get in reports. But tell me what your takeaway is here from the president.

HARWOOD: Well, the president is emphasizing cooperation with state governments and saying they can be more nimble.

Of course, he's getting a lot of criticism on testing and not giving federal guidance on holding events and that sort of thing. He has indicated this morning that he may cancel some of those campaign rallies that he likes to hold. But we've got to get the rest of that tape to find out in detail his responses.

In particular, I imagine that he was asked in that pool session about the news that we reported a few minutes ago, which is that the press secretary to the Brazilian president has tested positive for coronavirus, and the president of the United States was with him this past weekend at Mar-a-Lago.

BOLDUAN: Another thing we heard just at the tail end there was he was saying something to the effect of oil prices coming down, that it's like a big tax cut for Americans.

HARWOOD: Well, that is true.

BOLDUAN: Right.

HARWOOD: Americans will pay less for gasoline. However, that is also a big blow to business investment in the United States. A lot of the business investment that we've seen over the last couple of years has been in response to a rise in oil prices that spurs more investment. And when oil prices go down, that slows investment. So that has an effect on the economy.

And moreover, the fact that gas prices are coming down reflects a reduced demand. And reduced demand in a consumer-driven U.S. economy is a bad sign for the United States' ability to sustain this record- long expansion and avoid lapsing into recession in 2020 when the president is seeking reelection.

BOLDUAN: Let's be honest, John, looking at the bottom of the screen right on top of your kind shoulder is a look at the Dow right now. It's down 2,000 points.

HARWOOD: Exactly.

BOLDUAN: Trading halted briefly for the second time this week today. You know that is something the president is watching.

And that is after the presidential address last night to the nation. That clearly was intended to do something very different than what investors heard.

HARWOOD: Absolutely, Kate. And this is a pattern we heard repeatedly. When the president conducted one of his first major news conferences, when he came back from India, in an attempt to calm markets, we saw futures, financial market futures, go down while he was speaking.

The same thing happened last night. He gave that speech. It was not well received by the markets last night.

BOLDUAN: All right.

HARWOOD: It was not well received this morning.

BOLDUAN: John, stick with me.

I think they may have fixed the situation with the tape. Let's head back in.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: We will be talking about the obvious. And we'll also be talking about the virus that's hit the world. I see they've canceled their big soccer games, their championship games and a lot of other games. They've canceled a lot over in Europe and all over the world. So this is a big world problem.

We've taken some bold steps. We took the original boldest step of all when we closed very early with China. That helped us save thousands of lives. And we went very early with Europe. And I think that will likewise be very good.

And hopefully we can get it back together very quickly in terms of re- establishing with China. That's on track to -- something happened fairly quickly because they've made a lot of progress over the last three or four weeks.

And certainly with Europe, we think we can go hopefully very quickly. They have some hot spots that are really bad, but they'll get them better.

Germany, I guess, has some problems now. France has some problems, some pretty big problems.

[11:50:00]

And Italy, of course, is probably record-setting in terms of what they've gone through, Italy's having a very hard time.

But we think we'll re-establish very quickly, once this ends. And it's just a question of time. I think it'll go pretty quickly. Stay away from people, and wash your hands and do all of the things that we're supposed to be doing a little bit anyway.

But it'll be -- it'll go very quickly. I know that we were just talking, that Ireland's closed their schools. And maybe I'd ask the prime minister to say a little bit about what you're doing in Ireland--

LEO VARADKAR, IRISH PRIME MINISTER: Yeah.

TRUMP: -- having to do with what we're going through.

VARADKAR: Well, first of all, thank you, Mr. President, for having us again here today, in the run-up to St. Patrick's Day, just another opportunity, I think, to show how close Ireland and America are, and how good our relationship is politically and economically and everything else. And St. Patrick's Day has become, I think, a symbol of how close Ireland and America are, and how we're going to continue to stay close into the future.

The big concern in Ireland and Europe at the moment, as you know, is COVID-19. And we've acted -- just as you've acted -- decisively in the last couple of days. So we have restrictions on travel for example, to Italy, for a few days already. But as of tomorrow, our schools will close, our (inaudible) will close.

We are banning all indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 500, and this is all based on the public health advice from--

TRUMP: Right, right. Sure.

VARADKAR: -- from our CDC, that we need to do this for a couple of weeks to make sure the virus doesn't spread. And we're particularly trying to protect older people and people with chronic diseases. So we've had about 30 or 40 cases so far, 1 dead. We have a real concern that that could rise, and that's why we're taking the action that we're taking.

But as you know, it's -- it's a virus that's gone pandemic, it's all over the world. Knows no borders, knows no nationalities. And I think we all need to work together in the world on this. And America in particular, you're the richest country in the world, you've got great scientists, great companies, great universities, and we need them working on treatments, working on tests and working on a vaccine because that's -- that's what will get us on top of this.

TRUMP: Right. And we're making great progress there, I will say.

VARADKAR: Met with the vice president this morning, who I know is--

TRUMP: Right, right.

VARADKAR: -- heading up the task force for you, and he gave me a lot of confidence that you're getting on top of this and you're investing in this.

TRUMP: Right.

QUESTION: Mr. President, can you confirm that Ireland will be excluded from your travel ban, your European travel ban you announced last night?

TRUMP: Well, they know. I think it was made very clear last night, who is and who isn't. And we'll be discussing that; we'll be discussing some other moves that we're going to be making. And I think it's going to work out very well for everybody.

But it's a world problem, and you do need separation in some cases. You have some areas that are very heavily infected, and you have some areas that aren't frankly. But you do need separation for a little period of time, in some cases.

(CROSSTALK)

VARADKAR: Just saying (ph) that, that the president has excluded Ireland from the travel ban. And one of the things we have in Ireland is CBP, American border security, in Ireland. Went through it myself yesterday, and they're asking the right questions, whether people had been to China, things like that. So that puts us in a slightly different position. TRUMP: And one of the reasons U.K. basically has been -- it's got the border, it's got very strong borders. And they're -- they're doing a very good job. They don't have very much infection at this point, and hopefully they'll keep it that way.

QUESTION: Mr. President, there are many European leaders who are upset that they weren't consulted about the travel ban. Can you explain your rationale for not consulting with them first before announcing it last night?

TRUMP: Well, we get along very well with the European leaders, but we had to make a decision and I didn't want to take time -- and, you know, it takes a long time to make the individual calls, and we are calling and we have spoken to some of them prior to, some of the majors prior to.

But we had to move quickly. I mean, when they raise taxes on us, they don't consult us. And I think that's probably one and the same. They've done things, the European Union, as you know, has done some very big tax raises over the years. Not so much with me because I won't put up with it, but they haven't consulted us.

In the case of European Union, I've consulted with many people.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea what the overall economic impact of these travel restrictions will be?

TRUMP: Well, it'll be a big impact, but it's a bigger impact and it's also a human impact, which is more important, frankly, than the financial, when you lose thousands of additional lives.

As an example, if I didn't close, very, very early -- Leo, you know, we closed very early with China. And I took a lot of heat, including from you people, a lot of heat. They called me everything from a racist to everything else, it was terrible. And the same people, then they say, oh, he closed too fast, why did he close -- most of them said, why did he close with China? That turned out to be a great move.

What we did with Europe is, this was the time. And China, a lot of it came from when you -- when you think of what happened to Europe, because it was very fast and very furious. And what happened is a lot of people went from China into Europe, and Europe suffered tremendously.

You know, you see what's going on. And so, I just wanted that to stop as it pertains to the United States. And that's what we've done. We've stopped it.

QUESTION: Mr. President--

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: What are your plans, Mr. President, about campaign rallies, about travel outside the White House?

You originally had some travel on the schedule for tonight. TRUMP: Well, I did. We had some big rallies. We canceled one that we were thinking about doing in Las Vegas, as you know, and one in Reno, Nevada.

We had one -- we had about three of them in Nevada, actually. And we had four or five of them that we were thinking about. We have a big one in Tampa, all sold out. We have over 100,000 requests for tickets. But I think we'll probably not do it because people would say it's better to not do.

You know, we need a little separation until such time as this goes away. It's going to go away. It's going to go away. I was watching--

QUESTION: Mr. President--

TRUMP: I was watching Scott this morning. And he was saying within two months. But, you know, in the meantime, we want to lose as few people as possible -- so important.

And what is the number as of this morning? Is it 32?

You could tell me. Is it 32 deaths, Steve, around that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible).

TRUMP: I mean, think of it, the United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point. Other countries, that are smaller countries, have many, many deaths.

Thirty-two is a lot. Thirty-two is too many. But when you look at the kind of numbers that you're seeing coming out of other countries, it's pretty amazing, when you think of it. So that's it.

(CROSSTALK)

Steve, go ahead.

QUESTION: Are you going to invoke the Stafford Act today, declaring a national emergency?

TRUMP: Well, we have things that I can do. We have very strong emergency powers under the Stafford Act. And we are -- we haven't -- I mean, I have it memorized, practically, as to the powers in that act. And if I need to do something, I'll do it. I have the right to do a lot of things that people don't even know about.

QUESTION: Are you going to do that today?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, I don't want to say that. But, you know, at some point -- it may be some of the more minor things at this point, but, you know, look, we're in -- we're in great shape -- compared to other places, we are in really good shape. And we want to keep it that way. That's why I did the ban with respect to Europe. QUESTION: Mr. President--

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: -- emergency -- emergency actions that you can take--

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I have a lot of emergency actions that I can take.

QUESTION: With regard to workers--

TRUMP: Yeah.

QUESTION: What are you looking at to help American workers?

TRUMP: Well, we're looking at a lot of things, including paid leave. And we're looking at many things. We're also making sure they're going to get their salaries. We have other workers, too. And those are people that work for tips, and nobody thinks about them. And we're including them in a lot of our schedules.

We're also making sure that companies, which are good companies, stay solvent, have the money necessary to keep functioning. So we have a lot of things that we're working on with the financial markets, and it's going to work out fine.

You know--

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: You have to remember, the stock market, as an example, is still much higher than when I got here. And it's taken a big hit, but it's going to all bounce back and it's going to bounce back very big at the right time.

QUESTION: When will you decide, though, for the American workers, what--

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, we're deciding right now. And we're dealing also, prior to even the Stafford Act, we're dealing with the Democrats in Congress, and we'll see what can be done.

I happen to think that a payroll tax cut would be a very good idea. It -- you know, it distributes it -- really distributes it very evenly among middle-class and other workers, I mean, many workers. It would be a great thing. I happen to think it would be a great thing even beyond this, OK?

So we're looking at the payroll tax cut, and that won't come immediately because that's a stronger measure. But we are looking to do that, and I think, at the right time, Congress will probably go along with it because it really is the most sensible thing. We had the biggest bankers in the world here yesterday getting their opinions. They all thought a payroll tax cut would be a great thing. It would evenly and quickly distribute a lot of money.

QUESTION: Do you support the House bill, House Democrat bill?

TRUMP: No, because there are things in there that have nothing to do with what we're talking about. So, you know, it's not a -- it's not a way for them to get some of the goodies that they haven't been able to get for the last 25 years.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. President, will Irish citizens always be welcome to America throughout the coronavirus pandemic?

TRUMP: Always, always--

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Always, just like your prime minister, always. They will be not only welcome, loved. We have millions -- what is the number now, would you say? It changes every year. It gets, actually, bigger.

VARADKAR: Yeah, well, about 35 million of Irish--

TRUMP: Yeah, can you imagine? It's got to be one of our--

VARADKAR: -- Irish blood.

TRUMP: It's got to be one of our biggest. Now, we--

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: We love the Irish.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you support Irish citizens (ph) getting access to the E-3 visa?

TRUMP: We're going to be looking at that. We're going to be talking about that today. It's a very important part of our conversation.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: That's going to be, actually, a very important part of our conversation today.

QUESTION: Are there concerns about Huawei, China's telecom company, and its operations and connections with (inaudible) like Ireland? Is that what you want--

TRUMP: Well, I think there's a lack of security.

[12:00:00]